Mexican president defends record as virus toll soars

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An employee wears protective gear while working at the Azcapotzalco crematorium in Mexico City, on August 6, 2020, amid the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Friday defended his government's record fighting the coronavirus and ruled out a change in strategy after the official death toll surged past 50,000.

The Latin American nation recently overtook Britain to become the third hardest-hit country in terms of total virus deaths, after Brazil and the United States.

On Thursday the Mexican health ministry reported a total of 50,517 deaths and 462,690 infections in the nation of more than 128 million.

But Lopez Obrador said that in terms of deaths relative to population size, "we have not been so hard hit."

He said that while the situation is painful, on that basis Mexico ranks fifth in the Americas, behind the United States, Brazil, Chile and Peru.

"And if we compare ourselves with Europe, there are more deaths in Spain, France and England than in Mexico," he told a news conference in the northwestern state of Baja California Sur.

Critics say the Mexican authorities have not done enough testing to establish the true extent of infections and deaths.

But Lopez Obrador defended his team in charge of fighting the pandemic, including his coronavirus czar Hugo Lopez-Gatell.

"There is no change" in strategy, said the leftist leader when asked about demands from his opponents for a shift in tactics and the resignation of Lopez-Gatell.

Lopez Obrador added that his government had increased the number of intensive care beds to 12,000, from 2,800 at the start of the crisis.

"No one has been left unattended," he said, while offering condolences to families of the victims.

"Every loss of human life is a tragedy. It is a family, they are not numbers, they are not data," he said.