Brazil has surpassed more than one million confirmed coronavirus cases – second only to the US – with total deaths fast approaching 50,000.
There were 1,032,913 confirmed cases on Friday, with 1,206 new deaths taking the total official fatalities to 48,954, the health ministry said.
The ministry said the sharp increase was due to reporting system corrections in some states from previous days.
Friday also saw a new record daily number of cases, with 54,771, suggesting the COVID-19 outbreak is far from over.
‘Gravediggers don’t stop digging’
But some experts say the true extent of the outbreak far exceeds the official figures, citing a lack of widespread testing.
“That number of one million is much less than the real number of people who have been infected, because there is under-reporting of a magnitude of five to 10 times,” said Alexandre Naime Barbosa, a medical professor at Sao Paulo State University.
“The true number is probably at least three million and could even be as high as 10 million people.”
More from Brazil
Brazil confirmed its first case of the novel coronavirus on 26 February.
‘Bolsonaro weakens the stay at home message’
The virus has spread relentlessly across the country, reaching 82% of Brazil’s municipalities, health ministry data has shown.
President Jair Bolsonaro has been widely criticised for his handling of the crisis, after he dismissed the pandemic as “a little flu” and has refused to wear a mask or practice social distancing.
He has also promoted two anti-malarial drugs as remedies, chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, despite little evidence they work.
The country still has had no permanent health minister after losing two since April, following clashes with Mr Bolsonaro.
Strong divisions in Brazil as infections soar
Pressure from Mr Bolsonaro and public fatigue after months of ineffective state and local isolation orders has led governors and mayors to begin lifting restrictions on commerce and other economic activity.
But public health experts have warned that loosening restrictions too soon threatens to accelerate contagion and drive up fatalities.
“We think that there will be a new wave after the loosening of these measures,” said Ricardo Langer, a doctor treating COVID-19 patients at the Maracan stadium field hospital in Rio de Janeiro.
A worsening outbreak could also weigh on already-grim economic forecasts.
The government has said the economy will contract by 4.7% this year, while economists surveyed by the central bank think it will fall more than 6%.
Source : Sky News