Of all the companies around the world affected by covid-19, none has disclosed a worse death toll than Pemex, Mexico’s state-owned oil producer.
Petroleos Mexicanos, as it’s also known, said late Tuesday that 202 employees and five contractors have died of the disease so far. No other company has reported fatalities that come anywhere near that number, according to data reviewed by Bloomberg.
The closest comparison may be New York’s Metropolitan Transport Authority, which has lost at least 131 workers. Pemex’s toll also exceeds the 132 recorded by the entire U.S. meat and poultry industry as of July 14, which has four times the workforce and has suffered deadly outbreaks at processing plants.
Indeed, possibly the only institution with a confirmed toll higher than Pemex’s may be the U.K.’s National Health Service, which isn’t a company so much as a collection of health-care systems employing over 1 million people, many of whom have been on the front line of the battle against the virus.
It’s not clear why Pemex’s tally is so high, but social distancing is difficult on offshore oil platforms, and the company may initially have been slow to enact protective measures such as sending workers home, according to Silvia Ramos Luna, the general secretary of the National Union of Petroleum Technicians and Professionals. Many of the oil giant’s workers have pre-existing health conditions such as diabetes and hypertension, which may have contributed to the problem, she said in an interview.
A Pemex spokeswoman declined to comment on its virus data. The company previously said it has taken measures including sanitizing work spaces and evacuating some workers from offshore platforms. It has adopted stricter safety protocols, such as temperature checks and rapid diagnostic testing, that Ramos Luna’s union had requested, and the rate of deaths appears to be declining as a result, the general secretary said in an interview. Shutting platforms and refineries isn’t practical because Mexico needs the gasoline and diesel, she added.