Brazil passes 5,000 deaths from COVID-19: official

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Brasília (AFP)

Brazil, the South American country worst-hit by the coronavirus pandemic, has registered more than 5,000 deaths from COVID-19, the health ministry announced Tuesday.

A record 474 deaths were recorded in the last 24 hours, with the number of infections rising to 71,886, the ministry said.

The overall death toll from the pandemic in Brazil has exceeded that of China, where the virus first emerged before spreading across the world.

Right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro regularly expresses his impatience with restrictions imposed by the state governors to slow the disease's spread and has pushed hard for economy activity to restart.

Health Minister Nelson Teich, who took office earlier this month after the controversial firing of his predecessor, said last week as the death toll hit 3,000 that it was premature to attribute the rise in deaths to a surge in COVID-19 infections.

He suggested it could instead be the result of an increase in testing.

Sao Paulo, the hardest-hit state with a third of the country's cases, plans to gradually resume economic activity -- sector by sector -- from May 11.

Rio de Janeiro and southeastern Minas Gerais states are preparing similar measures, while the federal district of Brasilia and southern Santa Catarina state have already resumed certain activities.