Brazil confirmed its first case of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, also known as the novel coronavirus, on Feb. 26. The virus has spread relentlessly across the continent-sized country, eroding support for right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro and raising fears of economic collapse after years of anemic growth.
Brazil reported 1,032,913 confirmed cases on Friday, with 1,206 new deaths to take total official fatalities to 48,954, the Health Ministry said. Friday also saw a new record daily number of cases, with 54,771, suggesting the outbreak is far from over. Brazil is likely to surpass 50,000 deaths on Saturday, although weekend reporting can be lower.
Even so, the true extent of the outbreak far exceeds the official figures, according to many experts, who cite a lack of widespread testing.
“That number of 1 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 the São Paulo State University. “The true number is probably at least 3 million and could even be as high as 10 million people.”
COVID-19, the illness caused by the CCP virus, arrived in Brazil via wealthy tourists returning from Europe to major southeastern cities such as Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro and has spread deep into the interior, reaching 82 percent of Brazil’s municipalities, Health Ministry data showed.
Governors and mayors have begun lifting restrictions on commerce and other economic activity.
“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 Maracanã stadium field hospital in Rio de Janeiro.
A worsening outbreak could weigh on already-grim economic forecasts. The government has said the economy will contract by 4.7 percent this year, while economists surveyed by the central bank think it will fall more than 6 percent.
Latin America has registered 90,439 deaths, according to a Reuters tally, with nearly 2 million cases.
Epoch Times staff contributed to this report.