Brazil's coronavirus death toll surges past Italy's

Euan Marshall
Gravediggers bury a man who died from Covid-19 at Sao Luiz cemetery, in Sao Paulo, Brazil -  AMANDA PEROBELLI/Reuters
Coronavirus Article Bar with counter

With its overall Covid-19 death toll exceeding 34,000 people, Brazil is now the country with the third-highest number of deaths in the world, surpassing Italy.

Brazil is widely regarded to be the current global epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, with more new daily deaths and cases than any other country.

The Brazilian health ministry late on Thursday registered a record 1,473 Covid-19 deaths in 24 hours, a rate of one coronavirus death every 58 seconds.

The real situation may be much worse however, as researchers and infectious disease experts believe the full extent of Brazil's coronavirus epidemic has been grossly under-reported by official numbers.

Deaths by acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) have skyrocketed in the country, with suggestions that some 6,000 of these cases, dating back to March and April, may have been undiagnosed Covid-19 deaths.

Newly dug graves are seen at Sao Luiz cemetery where the administration says they recently dug 3000 new graves - Reuters

Furthermore, Brazil's level of testing is dangerously low. Only 4,643 out of every million Brazilians have been tested, with one infectious disease expert in São Paulo telling The Daily Telegraph that only patients with moderate to severe symptoms are receiving tests.

The UK, meanwhile, has tested an estimated 73,762 people per million inhabitants — a rate some 15 times higher.

Brazil's coronavirus infection curve is showing no signs of flattening, with experts predicting a peak of daily deaths to arrive only in July.

Despite this, several Brazilian states are beginning to relax social isolation measures and reopen businesses, fearing mass unemployment and bankruptcy if the closures were to continue.

In São Paulo, Brazil's biggest city and home to almost 70,000 cases of Covid-19, shopping centers and commerce have reopened, and office buildings and car dealerships will be able to resume serving the public as of today.

Coronavirus Live Tracker promo embed

Brazil's federal government has been widely criticised for its inadequate response to the coronavirus outbreak, with far-right president Jair Bolsonaro referring to the disease as a "little flu" on a number of occasions.

A high-ranking former member of the Bolsonaro government told The Daily Telegraph that the president regularly shot down any attempts to discuss a Covid-19 isolation strategy during cabinet meetings.

Mr Bolsonaro is radically opposed to social isolation and has continuously urged Brazilians to get back to work.

While individual state governments initially defied the president and imposed measures to contain the virus, Mr Bolsonaro's anti-isolation message led many to flout stay-at-home orders and render quarantine plans ineffective.