SAO PAULO – Brazil reported a record 33,274 new cases of the new coronavirus this weekend, the health ministry said late Sunday, and the death toll surpassed that of France and now ranks below only the United States, Britain, and Italy.
Brazil has now reported 514,992 confirmed cases of coronavirus since the outbreak began, a level of contagion second only to the United States.
The death toll in Brazil from Covid-19, the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus, increased to 29,314 with 983 deaths in the last 24 hours the ministry said.
Brazilian states are preparing to ease quarantine restrictions despite warnings from public health experts who say the worst is still to come.
Brazil’s right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro has played down the gravity of the epidemic and criticized lockdowns for paralyzing the economy and causing widespread unemployment and hardship.
Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro remain the hardest-hit states in Brazil in terms of sheer numbers, while per capita rates are higher in the country’s impoverished north and northeast, where health facilities are reaching capacity.
Brazil’s Ministry of Health has indicated “there is no way to foresee” when the country’s outbreak will peak, and experts say the number of cases could be 15 times higher than the confirmed figure because there has been no widespread testing.
The pandemic is spreading across Brazil under a cloud of confrontation, as governors and mayors implement restrictive measures while President Jair Bolsonaro, who has pinned his hopes of re-election on a booming economy, has berated them for imposing what he calls “the tyranny of total quarantine.”
The US death toll now stands at 106,198. Britain, meanwhile, has a toll of 38,489 and Italy stands at 33,415.–With input from MercoPress