Mexico’s state oil firm Pemex has the highest number of employees who have died of the coronavirus, according to Bloomberg estimates of company data and official statements.
On Tuesday, Pemex said in its daily bulletin that as of July 14, a total of 202 of its employees had died of COVID-19, while a total of 4,119 cases had been confirmed among active workers, retired workers, and family members.
According to Bloomberg’s estimates, this is the highest number of deaths at any company anywhere in the world. The death toll at Pemex exceeds the deaths in the whole U.S. meat and poultry industry.
The possible reasons for the high death toll at Pemex include many workers with pre-existing conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes, Silvia Ramos Luna, general secretary of the National Union of Petroleum Technicians and Professionals, told Bloomberg in an interview. Other reasons possibly include the fact that it is difficult to practice social distancing on offshore oil platforms, as well as Pemex’s initially slow reaction to take measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus, according to Ramos Luna.
A few days ago, Mexico became the country with the fourth-highest death toll from COVID-19 in the world, after the United States, Brazil, and the UK. More than 35,000 people have died of the coronavirus in Mexico.
The health emergency at Pemex comes as the Mexican state oil firm is grappling with huge debts and low oil prices.
Pemex is asking some of its contractors if they would agree to be paid for their services next year, people familiar with the payment situation at the company with US$105 billion of debt told Bloomberg earlier this month.
Pemex also plans a debt swap for a total of US$22.4 billion long-term bonds.
Mexico’s leftist populist President Andrés Manuel López Obrador planned to make Pemex the pillar of a turnaround for the country’s declining oil production, but the oil price crash further deteriorated the finances and the debt of the Mexican oil company.