Brazil has confirmed more than 1 million coronavirus cases in the country, the second country to record the mammoth figure after the US.
The country’s health ministry said on Friday that the total now stood at 1,032,913, an increase of 50,000 from the day before. The alarming increase was due to corrections of under-reported numbers in previous days, said the ministry.
Over 1,200 deaths were recorded for the fourth day in a row, pushing the death toll to nearly 49,000.
But health experts believe the actual number of cases in Brazil could be up to seven times higher than the official statistic. John Hopkins University said the country is performing an average of 14 tests per 100,000 people per day, up to 20 times less than what is needed to track the virus.
Alexandre Naime Barbosa, a medical professor at Sao Paulo State University, that the true figure is unknown due to “under-reporting of a magnitude of five to 10 times”.
“The true number is probably at least 3 million and could even be as high as 10 million people,” she said.
But Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro still downplayed the virus’ impact, saying the effects of lockdown measures on the economy could be worse than the disease itself.
Miguel Lago, executive director of Brazil’s Institute for Health Policy Studies, which advises public health officials, told AP that poorer health care in smaller cities is exacerbating the outbreak.
“There is a lot of regional inequality in our public health system and a shortage of professionals in the interior. That creates many health care deserts, with people going long distances to get attention. When they leave the hospital, the virus can go with them,” he said.
Pressure from Mr Bolsonaro and other political leaders to re-open the economy has led to some regions lifting restrictions, but the increasing number of cases has given governors pause for thought.
In Porto Alegre, mayor Nelson Marchezan said they were “already making projections for schools to come back” but are now considering more restrictions and increasing social isolation measures after ICU occupancy in the city leapt to 80 per cent this month.
Outside Sao Paulo city, five regions of the state’s countryside will have to close shops starting Monday, announced Governor Joao Doria on Friday.
World Health Organisation executive director Dr Mike Ryan told a news conference that Brazil must increase its efforts to stop the spread of coronavirus.