Coronavirus death toll passes 1,000 in Brazil
Brasília (AFP) –
Brazil, the hardest-hit Latin American country in the coronavirus pandemic, passed the mark of 1,000 deaths on Friday, the health ministry said.
The ministry's latest figures gave a toll of 19,638 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with 1,056 deaths -- one fewer than it had indicated in an initial tally earlier in the day.
With a worldwide death toll of more than 100,000, Brazil's figure is still relatively small compared to the number of deaths in countries such as Italy (more than 18,000), the United States (nearly 17,000) and Spain (nearly 16,000).
But health officials are bracing for things to get worse.
Experts predict the outbreak will peak in Brazil toward late April.
There are fears for what that could mean in the country's poorest areas, especially the favelas -- crowded, impoverished slums in cities such as Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro that typically lack basic health and sanitation infrastructure.
President Jair Bolsonaro meanwhile faces a firestorm of criticism for downplaying COVID-19 as a "little flu" and the reaction to it as "hysteria."
The far-right leader has clashed with local and state authorities over their decisions to close businesses and schools and tell people to remain home, which he warns will wreck the economy.
In his latest act of disregard for his own government's recommendations, he hit the streets of Brasilia on Friday to greet supporters.
Mingling with no face mask and apparently ignoring social distancing measures, he was particularly criticized for wiping his nose with his right hand at one point, then using it to shake hands with an elderly woman.
But he faces increasing political isolation as governors and local authorities largely ignore him to implement stay-at-home measures to fight the spread of the virus.
© 2020 AFP