Coronavirus: Brazil overtakes Spain and Italy as new cases grow

Share with others
A man wearing a mask sits on a bench with his dog on Rio de Janeiro's Copacabana beach, Brazil. Photo: 17 May 2020
Image caption The real number may be far higher in Brazil due to a lack of testing, health experts say

Brazil has overtaken Spain and Italy to become the country with the fourth largest number of confirmed coronavirus infections in the world.

Officials on Saturday reported 14,919 new cases in the past 24 hours, taking the total to 233,142. Only the US, Russia and the UK have higher numbers.

The daily death toll in the Latin American nation rose by 816 to 15,633 – the world’s fifth highest.

Experts warn that the real figure may be far higher due to a lack of testing.

“Brazil is only testing people who end up in the hospital,” Domingo Alves from the University of Säo Paulo Medical School told AFP news agency last week.

“It’s hard to know what’s really happening based on the available data. We don’t have a real policy to manage the outbreak,” he said.

Mr Alves is one of the authors of a study that estimated the real number of infections was 15 times higher than the official figure.

Brazil’s far-right president Jair Bolsonaro has been strongly criticised both at home and abroad for his handling of the country’s escalating coronavirus crisis.

Mr Bolsonaro continues to oppose lockdown measures. He has downplayed the virus as “a little flu” and has said the spread of Covid-19 is inevitable.

Media captionThe BBC’s South America correspondent Katy Watson looks at how Bolsonaro has responded to the virus in Brazil

In April, Mr Bolsonaro joined protesters demanding that lockdown restrictions be lifted. He says the restrictions are damaging the country’s economy, bringing unemployment and hunger.

Last week, Brazilian Health Minister Nelson Teich resigned after less than a month in the job. Mr Teich stepped down after he had publicly criticised a decree by Mr Bolsonaro allowing gyms and beauty parlours to reopen. Mr Teich’s predecessor was sacked after disagreeing with Mr Bolsonaro.

In the face of mixed messages, and with little government help at hand, not enough Brazilians are staying at home to slow the spread of the virus, the BBC’s Americas editor Candace Piette says.

What’s the latest in the wider region?

Brazil, by far the largest country in Latin America, has for several weeks been at the centre of the coronavirus outbreak.

Latin America and the Caribbean have recorded more than 500,000 infections, with Brazil accounting for nearly 50% of the cases.

Mexico has recently seen a spike in new infections, while Ecuador saw its health system collapse in April.

Media captionAerial footage of Latin America’s biggest graveyard

The sharp rise in cases in Latin America has led the World Health Organization (WHO) to say the Americas are currently at the centre of the pandemic.

In March, the WHO had labelled Europe the “epicentre of the pandemic” but the region is now slowly beginning to ease restrictions brought in to slow the spread of the virus.

Did you think this article was useful?

Click on the star to vote

Average vote 0 / 5. Number of votes: 0

No votes so far