Covid-19 patients are treated inside a non-invasive ventilation system named the ‘Vanessa Capsuleí at the municipal field hospital Gilberto Novaes in Manaus, Brazil. (Photo by AP)
Brazil became the world No. 2 hotspot for coronavirus cases on Friday, second only to the United States, after it confirmed that 330,890 people had been infected by the virus, overtaking Russia, the Health Ministry said.
Brazil registered 1,001 daily coronavirus deaths on Friday, taking total deaths to 21,048, according to the Health Ministry.
In Sao Paulo, the worst hit city, aerial video showed rows of open plots at the Formosa Cemetery as it rushed to keep up with demand.
Far-right President JairBolsonaro has been widely criticized for his handling of the outbreak and is at the center too of a deepening political crisis.
The former army captain has seen his poll ratings drop, hurt by his opposition to social distancing measures, support of the unproven remedy chloroquine, and tussles with experienced public health officials.
The true number of cases and deaths is likely higher than the figures suggest, as Latin Americaís top economy has been slow to ramp up testing.
The outbreak is accelerating. On Monday, Brazil overtook Britain to become the country with the third highest number of infections. It surpassed Russia on Friday, but is unlikely to pass the United States soon. The worldís No 1 economy has more than 1.5 million cases.
Since the outbreak began, Bolsonaro has lost two health ministers, after pressuring them to promote the early use of anti-malarial drugs like chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine. Several high-profile public health experts have also left. Many have been replaced by soldiers.
On Wednesday, Interim Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello, an active-duty army general, authorized new guidelines for the wider use of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine in mild cases.
South America a new COVID epicenter, Africa reaches 100K cases: WHO
South America has become a new epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic with Brazil hardest-hit, while cases are rising in some African countries that so far have a relatively low death toll, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday.
"The COVID-19 pandemic today reached a milestone in Africa, with more than 100,000 confirmed cases. The virus has now spread to every country in the continent since the first case was confirmed in the region 14 weeks ago," the WHO said in a statement, noting there were 3,100 confirmed deaths on the vast continent.
Dr. MatshidisoMoeti, WHO regional director for Africa, who is from Botswana, said: "For now COVID-19 has made a soft landfall in Africa, and the continent has been spared the high numbers of deaths which have devastated other regions of the world."
Even so, she said, "We must not be lulled into complacency as our health systems are fragile and are less able to cope with a sudden increase in cases."
About half of African countries are experiencing community transmission of the virus, the WHO said.
The situation in South America appeared graver. Dr. Mike Ryan, WHOís top emergencies expert, speaking earlier to a news conference, said: "In a sense South America has become a new epicenter for the disease."
Brazil is the "most affected," and authorities there have approved broad use of the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine for treatment of COVID-19, he said. He reiterated that clinical evidence does not support the drugís widespread use against the disease, given its risks.
Nine African countries had 50% rises in cases in the past week, while others have seen a decline or have stable rates, Ryan said.
The low mortality rate may be because half the continentís population is 18 or younger, he said, while saying he remains worried the disease will spread on a continent with "significant gaps" in intensive care services, medical oxygen and ventilation.