Mexico passes 150,000 deaths from the coronavirus as pandemic deepens

FILE PHOTO: Paramedics transfer a 63-year-old patient who suffers from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) from her house to a hospital, to try to find a free bed inside the hospital, as the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in Mexico City, Mexico January 13, 2021. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico’s official death toll from the coronavirus passed 150,000 on Monday following a surge in infections in recent weeks that has stretched the health system in the capital to the limit and led to the president contracting COVID-19.

The Health Ministry on Monday reported 659 new deaths, bringing the total death toll to 150,273. There were 8,521 new cases on Monday for a total of 1,771,740 confirmed infections.

The government says the real number of infected people is likely significantly higher than the confirmed cases.

Mexico has struggled to contain the pandemic and has the fourth-highest death toll worldwide. In the capital, Mexico City, families are struggling to buy or rent vital tanks of oxygen for relatives suffering from COVID-19.

On Sunday, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, 67, who has a history of heart problems and high blood pressure, said he had tested positive for COVID-19 and was being treated for mild symptoms.

Government officials close to Lopez Obrador said on Monday they would undergo testing. Deputy Health Minister Hugo Lopez-Gatell, who has spearheaded Mexico’s response to the outbreak, said in a video call during a regular government news conference that he was self-isolating due to potential exposure.

Reporting by Cassandra Garrison and Sharay Angulo; Additional reporting by Adriana Barrera; Editing by Peter Cooney