Brazil becomes second country to hit one million cases

Brazil has become the second country in the world to confirm more than one million cases of Covid-19, as the disease continues to spread.

The health ministry also posted a record number of new cases in the past 24 hours – more than 54,000, the BBC reported.

In addition, there were more than 1,200 deaths for the fourth consecutive day, taking the total to nearly 49,000.

A lack of testing suggests the true figures are higher and experts say the outbreak is weeks away from its peak.

Only the US has seen more infections. Brazil’s poorest communities and indigenous people have been particularly badly hit by the pandemic.

President Jair Bolsonaro has been heavily criticised for his response to the crisis. The far-right leader – who initially described the disease as a “little flu” – has repeatedly clashed with state governors and mayors who have adopted strict restrictions to curb the spread of the virus, shutting down major cities.

Bolsonaro argues that the economic impact of the measures will be much bigger than the virus itself, a position shared by many. But his overall approach to the crisis has led to the resignation of two doctors as health minister.

As there was no national lockdown, states and cities adopted their own measures. After months of restrictions, some are slowly being lifted, even though the infection level remains high.

There is still concern that the health system will be unable to cope in some places, and that the disease is spreading faster in deprived neighbourhoods and remote areas, such as indigenous communities, where access to adequate care is difficult.

At the same time, there is a widespread wish to restart the economy as analysts forecast a contraction between 6% and 8% this year with millions of jobs lost. The government has introduced temporary payments to help people affected by the pandemic but large numbers are expected to be thrown into poverty.

On Friday, Brazil’s health ministry confirmed a total of 1,032,913 cases. It said that the large spike in the number of infections was due, in part, to several states having trouble with reporting data on Thursday.

The US has the world’s highest numbers of cases – more than 2.2 million – and nearly 119,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University, which is tracking the disease globally.

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