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Brazil marks grim COVID milestone with 3 million confirmed cases

Julia Leite and Murilo Fagundes, Bloomberg News on

Published in News & Features

SAO PAULO, Brazil -- Brazil topped 3 million coronavirus infections as the disease flares up in parts of the country it had spared, spreading misery from the beaches of Bahia to the soybean fields of the vast interior.

The milestone comes less than a month after Brazil hit the 2 million-case mark and as the disease sweeps into more remote regions were access to health care was precarious even before the pandemic. So even as the virus recedes in some of the locations where it first hit -- richer, densely populated urban centers like Sao Paulo -- the country's curve has yet to flatten.

The country reported 49,970 new cases Saturday and added 905 new deaths, bringing with the total fatality count to more than 100,000.

There's no relief in sight. Cases will likely increase to 4 million within a month, and the true rate of infection is likely six or seven times the number of positive tests, according to Domingos Alves, the coordinator of the Health Intelligence Department at the University of Sao Paulo.

"The fact we are getting to 3 million cases and 100,000 deaths at the same time shows the gravity of the pandemic in Brazil," he said in an interview.

Brazil has recorded more than 200,000 infections and 7,000 deaths a week for two months.

 

"That's five full Boeing planes falling over our heads a day," Luiz Henrique Mandetta, the first of two health ministers who departed in the midst of the pandemic after disagreeing with the government's response, said in an interview last month. "It's incredibly grave."

Mandetta, who was fired in April after repeated clashes with President Jair Bolsonaro, has become a harsh critic of Brazil's response to the pandemic. The lack of a national approach, a shortage of testing and a push to reopen before the disease recedes have made the country a global hotspot, second only to the U.S. in number of cases and deaths.

The mish-mash approach has also made it harder to pinpoint when the infection will start to recede -- already a tall order in a country of 210 million people with some states the size of France where many live in poverty and can't afford not to work.

The Northeastern state of Bahia, which in early June had fewer than 20,000 cases, now counts more than 180,000 infections. In Minas Gerais, in the center of the country, cases went from 10,000 to 140,000 in the same span. In the South, Santa Catarina went from 9,500 infections to almost 100,000.

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