Mexico's dying toll from COVID-19 is ready to hit grim milestone of 150,000

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© Reuters. New graves can be seen in Xico Cemetery as the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak continues in the Valle de Chalco, Mexico state

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By Josue Gonzalez

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – A family wept outside a Mexico City cemetery and hugged the box of their beloved grandmother's ashes.

The grandmother fell sick a few days after meeting to celebrate the New Year and died shortly after, family members said. She wasn't even 60 years old.

Mexico will surpass 150,000 deaths from COVID-19, one of the world's highest death toll, according to a Reuters tally. https://tmsnrt.rs/34pvUyi

The death toll bridges the gap with India, a country with a population many times larger. Only the US and Brazil reported higher numbers.

"You feel so powerless when you see your relative slip away when you have no way of doing something for them to save them," said Lesly Garcia. "It hurt not to see her again."

Garcia, a university student, was waiting to receive her grandmother's ashes outside the cemetery when smoke rose from the chimneys of the crematorium.

Few people are allowed to attend each funeral. This is an added security measure to contain the potential spread of the highly contagious virus. The police check compliance.

Nearby, a group of men said goodbye for the last time to a deceased person whose ashes are kept in a small black box adorned with a cross.

Some cried. With salsa music playing in the background, they took a sip from a small bottle of brandy before pouring the schnapps over the box.

Despite repeated calls from the authorities, the Mexicans had met to celebrate the Christmas and New Year holidays.

Then, infections and deaths hit multiple records in January, official data showed.

The confirmed death toll in Mexico had risen to 149,084 as of Saturday, and the number of infections rose to more than 1.75 million, authorities reported.

But health officials have said the actual number of cases and deaths is likely to be significantly higher.

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