Brazil, the world’s No. 2 coronavirus hotspot after the United States, is fast approaching one million cases, although experts say the true number is likely higher due to patchy testing.
Brazil also registered 1282 COVID-19 deaths since its last update on Monday, the Health Ministry said on Tuesday, bringing confirmed fatalities in the country to 45,241.
Walter Braga Netto, the head of the office of the president’s chief of staff, known as Casa Civil, and one of the top officials handling the crisis, said it was under control.
“There is a crisis, we sympathise with bereaved families, but it is managed,” said Braga Netto, who spoke during a webinar held by the Commercial Association of Rio de Janeiro.
Braga Netto said Brazil’s deaths-per-million-people figure was better than that of Belgium, Spain, the United Kingdom, Italy and France.
As such, the Army general said he “was trying to convey a message of optimism in the management of the crisis”.
His optimism was not shared by the World Health Organisation’s regional director.
Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) Director Carissa Etienne said in a video briefing from Washington that Brazil is a major concern.
Latin America’s largest country accounts for about a quarter of the roughly four million coronavirus cases in the Americas and nearly 25 per cent of the deaths, she said.
“We are not seeing transmission slowing down” in Brazil, Etienne said.
PAHO recommends that Brazil and other regional countries strengthen social distancing and urged that reopening of the economy be done slowly and carefully.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has long opposed social distancing measures, and many of the country’s states are reopening for business even though the outbreak remains severe.
New China cases on rise
Beijing officials have reported several new COVID-19 cases for the sixth consecutive day, extending an outbreak that has forced the Chinese capital’s authorities to reinstate strict defences against the coronavirus.
Health officials recorded 31 new confirmed infections for Wednesday, June 16, bringing the cumulative infections since Thursday last week to 137 cases, the worst resurgence of the disease in the city since early February.
Authorities on Tuesday raised Beijing to a level two alert, the second-highest level in a four-tier COVID-19 emergency response level system. That reversed a one step downgrade from level two to level three a mere 10 days earlier.
Some 27 neighbourhoods were designated as medium-risk areas, subjecting people entering to temperature checks and registration. One neighbourhood, near the massive wholesale food centre detected as the source of the latest outbreak, was marked high-risk.
Under the level two restrictions, the city’s roads and highways were still open, companies and factories were not ordered to stop work, and there was no blanket curb on residential compounds.
However, movement of people in and out of the city was strictly controlled and subject to COVID-19 tests, while residents in high-risk areas were quarantined in their neighbourhoods and also required to undergo tests. Kindergartens, primary schools and high schools were all shut.
The outbreak has been traced to the sprawling Xinfadi wholesale food centre in the southwest of Beijing where thousands of tonnes of vegetables, fruit and meat change hands each day.
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