Brazil now second in virus deaths, as US states see rising cases

RIO DE JANEIRO (AFP) – Brazil on Friday claimed the unenviable position of having the second-highest coronavirus death toll worldwide behind the United States (US), where several states have posted record daily case totals, signalling the crisis is far from over.

US and European stocks ended the week on an upswing after a rout sparked by the US data and fresh evidence of the economic damage caused by virus-related lockdowns, with British GDP shrinking by a record 20.4 per cent in April.

Meanwhile, in several European countries, the focus shifted to the courts, and who might eventually be pinned with the blame for the global financial and health crisis.

Brazil’s health ministry recorded 909 deaths in the past 24 hours, putting the total at 41,828 – meaning the country of 212 million people has now surpassed Britain’s death toll.

Experts warn the actual number of cases in Latin America’s biggest economy could be many times higher than the confirmed figure of 828,810.

“Some areas are at a critical stage” in Brazil, with intensive care unit occupancy levels of more than 90 per cent, World Health Organization (WHO) emergencies director Mike Ryan told journalists in Geneva.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who threatened last week to quit the WHO over “ideological bias”, has dismissed the virus as a “little flu”, and berated state officials for imposing lockdowns.

Latin America is the latest epicentre in the world’s battle with the novel coronavirus. The region has recorded more than 1.5 million infections and 76,000 deaths, with no signs the virus is slowing. In the US, which has confirmed the most COVID-19 deaths – over 114,000 – more than a dozen states, including two of the most populous, Texas and Florida, reported their highest-ever daily case totals this week.

“It’s important that we remember that this situation is unprecedented. And that the pandemic has not ended,” Robert Redfield of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said.

This May 15, 2020 file photo shows protesters holding a rally against Pennsylvania’s coronavirus stay-at-home order in Hariisburg. PHOTO: AP