RIO DE JANEIRO: Brazil has passed the bleak milestone of two million confirmed coronavirus cases with little sign that the rate of increase is slowing.
Brazil has the world’s second-largest outbreak after the United States and reached one million cases just 27 days ago. In recent weeks, there have been nearly 40,000 confirmed new cases per day, according to government figures.
By contrast, 43 days passed between 1 million and 2 million confirmed cases in the United States, where the spread of COVID-19 eased briefly in May before accelerating again in June. The confirmed cases in Brazil totaled 2,012,151, while deaths numbered 76,688.
Brazil is the largest country in Latin America, is home to around 210 million people – roughly two-thirds the size of the US population. In both countries, the virus has gained steam in new areas far from the largest cities.
A patchwork of state and city responses has held up poorly in Brazil in the absence of a tightly coordinated policy from the federal government.
Despite the rapid spread of the virus, President Jair Bolsonaro has pressured local governments to lift lockdown restrictions.
Bolsonaro, who tested positive for the virus last week, has played down its health risks and fought against social distancing orders, calling their economic effects worse than the disease itself.
Bolsonaro’s popularity has been sinking during the pandemic. In some big cities such as Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, where the outbreak first emerged in Brazil, new daily cases have stabilized and even begun to decline slowly.
This been offset by worsening outbreaks in other regions. Among the states with the fastest-growing outbreaks are Rio Grande do Sul and Parana in southern Brazil, which had kept a lid on their outbreaks early on.
Public health experts are raising alarms about the worsening outlook in southern Brazil, which has the coldest weather during the southern hemisphere winter, now underway, and a population that skews older than the rest of the country.