RIO DE JANEIRO • Brazil on Thursday passed the two million mark for confirmed coronavirus cases, with little sign that the rate of increase is slowing as anger grows over President Jair Bolsonaro’s handling of the outbreak.
Figures published by the Health Ministry showed there were more than 45,000 new cases on Thursday, and an extra 1,300 deaths.
It was only 27 days ago when Brazil – which is experiencing the world’s second-largest outbreak after the United States – reached one million cases.
Over the last two months, Brazil has recorded more than 30,000 new cases over a period of 24 hours 26 times, and on 11 of those occasions, there were more than 40,000 infections.
Yesterday, confirmed cases in Brazil totalled 2,015,382, while deaths numbered 76,846.
A patchwork of state and city responses has held up poorly in Brazil in the absence of a tightly coordinated policy from the federal government.
Despite the rapid spread of the virus, Mr Bolsonaro has pressured local governments to lift lockdown restrictions.
Mr Bolsonaro, who tested positive for the virus last week, has played down its health risks and fought against social distancing orders, calling their economic effects worse than the disease itself.
Under pressure, many governors and mayors have loosened restrictions in recent weeks, fuelling bigger outbreaks.
In big cities such as Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, where the outbreak first emerged in Brazil, new daily cases have stabilised and even begun to decline.
But in Rio Grande do Sul and Parana in southern Brazil, which had kept a lid on their outbreaks early on, cases are rising faster than in the rest of the country.
“The government didn’t budge despite the health crisis. They thought more about money than about people,” said Rio de Janeiro resident Rafael Reis, who lost his 71-year-old mother to the disease. “They wanted everyone back on the streets.”
Public health experts are raising alarm about the worsening outlook in southern Brazil, which has the coldest weather during the southern hemisphere winter and a population that skews older than the rest of the country.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE