Covid-19 cases in Brazil surpass Italy amid surge in Latin America
Confirmed Covid-19 cases in Brazil have surpassed the total in Italy and are surging in Mexico and Peru as Latin America struggles to contain its fast-growing coronavirus outbreak.
Spain announced that 87 people had died there in the 24 hours to Sunday morning, the first time the figure has been below 100 in more than two months and a sign the virus is being contained in western Europe as it continues to spread aggressively in Russia, India and parts of Africa.
Brazil announced nearly 15,000 new infections on Saturday, taking its total to more than 230,000, the fourth-largest confirmed caseload after the US, Russia and the UK. Its true number of infections is feared to be much greater, given that the country had carried out fewer than a 500,000 tests by the start of last week, compared with about 1.9m in Spain and Italy.
The country’s response has been hamstrung by the resignation of two successive federal health ministers in the past month and complaints of inaction by the president, Jair Bolsonaro, a rightwing populist who continues to be critical of the shutdown measures implemented by Brazil’s state governments.
“Unemployment, hunger and misery will be the future of those who support the tyranny of total isolation,” Bolsonaro tweeted, a day after Nelson Teich resigned on Friday after less than a month as health minister. Brazil is expected to post its biggest annual economic contraction this year since records began over a century ago.
On Sunday Bolsonaro again undermined social distancing measures attending a small rally of supporters outside the presidential palace with two sons and several top ministers.
“We hope soon to be free of this matter,” Brazil’s president said of Covid-19, according to the Folha de São Paulo newspaper. “Brazil, I’m certain, will be stonger for it.”
Mexico, whose leftwing populist president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has also been accused of not taking the virus seriously enough, is nearing 50,000 confirmed cases and experiencing what the country’s assistant health secretary has described as the most difficult moment so far in its effort to contain the virus.
López Obrador nonetheless plans to allow Mexico’s car, construction and mining sectors to reopen from Monday, with about 10% of the country’s municipalities that have detected few cases to be allowed to open fully. The rest of the country will reopen by 1 June, the president said this week, though masks and some physical distancing measures would still be mandatory.
India’s official caseload passed that of China at the weekend. Nearly a third of the country’s 90,000-plus cases have been detected in the financial capital, Mumbai. The Indian government has said the spread of the virus is slowing despite the difficulties of physical distancing in many cities.
The Narendra Modi government on Sunday extended a nearly two-month-old lockdown by another two weeks though some elements would be relaxed to relieve the economic burden of the quarantine, which has triggered an exodus of hundreds of thousands of migrant workers back to their home cities and villages.
Cases in Russia increased by more than 9,700 on Sunday, a greater rise than on the previous day. The nationwide total stands at at more than 280,000.
Spain recorded its lowest single-day death toll in two months on Sunday. The country has confirmed 231,350 cases of the virus using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, and has reported 27,650 deaths.
The prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, announced on Saturday that his socialist-led coalition would be seeking a final, month-long extension of the state of emergency underpinning one of the strictest lockdowns in Europe.
“The path that we are taking is the only one possible,” he said. The government secured the current extension, which expires on 24 May, despite fierce opposition from the conservative People’s party and the far-right Vox party.
Both parties claim the state of emergency is excessive and no longer necessary, but the government says Spain’s hard-won gains against the virus must be safeguarded. Sánchez is likely to face another uphill struggle as he prepares to ask MPs to back the final extension in congress later this week.
About 70% of the country will be in the second phase of de-escalation by Monday, meaning people can shop in small stores without an appointment, meet in groups of up to 10, and eat or drink in cafe and restaurant terraces, which are operating at 50% capacity.
Greece is continuing to make headway in its return to normality. The government is poised to announce that restaurants and other eateries could open on 25 May, a week ahead of schedule.
Churches were also open to worshippers on Sunday for the first time in two months, albeit with strict distancing rules that kept people 10 square metres from each other. The country has had one of the earliest and most successful responses in Europe, recording 2,810 confirmed infections and 160 fatalities.