Record 1,188 deaths push Brazil’s virus toll past 20,000

People wear masks while waiting for a bus in Valparaiso on May 20. Brazil has more than 310,000 cases. (AP pic)

RIO DE JANEIRO: The coronavirus death toll in Brazil surpassed 20,000 on Thursday, after a record number of fatalities in a 24-hour period, the health ministry said.

The country is the epicentre of the outbreak in Latin America, and its highest one-day toll of 1,188 pushed the overall death tally to 20,047.

Brazil has now recorded more than 310,000 cases, with experts saying a lack of testing means the real figures are probably much higher.

With its curve of infections and deaths rising sharply, the country of 210 million ranks third in the world in terms of total cases, behind the US and Russia.

The death toll – the sixth highest worldwide – has doubled in just 11 days, according to ministry data.

Despite the worrying spread of the disease, far-right President Jair Bolsonaro on Thursday continued his calls to scrap lockdown measures to revive the country’s flagging economy.

But almost all of the country’s 27 states are under some sort of lockdown order, though Brazilians are wearying of the restrictions in place since the end of March.

Sao Paulo state, the economic and cultural capital of Brazil, is by far the most affected area, with about a quarter of the country’s deaths and infections.

The virus’ impact has accelerated in Rio de Janeiro state in recent days.

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