Brazil coronavirus cases pass grim milestone of 2 million

The latest headlines in your inbox twice a day Monday – Friday plus breaking news updates

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Brazil has exceeded 2 million.

Since late May, three months after the country’s first reported case of Covid-19, it has recorded more than 1,000 daily deaths on average.

Brazil’s health ministry said the country had passed the 2 million confirmed cases landmark and recorded 76,000 deaths.

Even as cases wane in the biggest and hardest-hit Brazilian cities, the virus is peaking in new locations across what is the largest country in South America.

Experts blame denial of the virus’s deadly potential by President Jair Bolsonaro and lack of national co-ordination combined with scattershot responses by city and state governments, with some reopening earlier than health experts recommended.

An interim health minister untrained in the field is presiding over pandemic response. Mr Bolsonaro himself is sick with Covid-19 after repeatedly flouting social distancing recommendations and undermining local leaders’ restrictions on activity.

Brazil’s roughly 7,000 Covid-19 deaths in each of the last seven weeks is equal to several aeroplanes packed with Brazilians crashing every day, former health minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta told The Associated Press.

Mr Mandetta said: “People have become callous. When you say, ‘Yesterday there were 1,300 deaths,’ people say, ‘OK, then it didn’t go up. It was 1,300 people the day before, too.”‘

Brazil’s nearly 2 million cases is second only to the United States and experts believe the number to be an under-count due to widespread lack of testing. A model created by professors from several Brazilian academic institutions, based on the number of confirmed deaths, estimates Brazil has had 10 million infections.

Dr Adriano Massuda, a health care administration specialist and professor at the Getulio Vargas Foundation university in Sao Paulo, said: “The virus would have been difficult to stop anyway. But this milestone of 2 million cases, which is very underestimated, shows this could have been different.

“There’s no national strategy for testing, no measures from the top, … too little effort to improve basic care so we find serious cases before they become too serious, no tracking.”

The virus has begun reaching cities and states previously spared, offsetting declines elsewhere.

The number of deaths has been ebbing in states including Rio de Janeiro and Amazonas, where people were buried in mass graves in the capital, Manaus.

In the last two weeks, 10 of Brazil’s 26 states and its Federal District saw increases, with two southern states’ average daily death tolls doubling.

Mr Bolsonaro has consistently downplayed Covid-19’s severity, saying strict social distancing measures that sacrifice jobs and income will ultimately be more harmful than the virus itself, and calling on supporters to encourage their local leaders to lift restrictions on activity.