Brazil passes 20,000 virus deaths after record 24-hour toll

Aerial view of Sao Francisco neighborhood where Maria Moitinho Nunes Sinimbu, 76, mother of twelve, lives in Manaus, Amazonas State, Brazil, taken on May 16, 2020 day in which she offered an interview to AFP to talk about her three children who died of the novel coronavirus COVID-19, two confirmed and one suspected, in less than a month. – Maria lost two sons and a daughter, and a sister and a brother-in-law, to the novel coronavirus it is believed. All in less than a month. Most of the family, including herself, showed symptoms of COVID-19 but due to the shortage of tests, they will never know for sure if they had the disease. (Photo by MICHAEL DANTAS / AFP)

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (AFP) — The coronavirus death toll in Brazil surpassed 20,000 on Thursday, after a record number of fatalities in a 24-hour period, the health ministry said.

The country is the epicenter of the outbreak in Latin America, and its highest one-day toll of 1,188 pushed the overall death tally to 20,047.

Brazil has now recorded more than 310,000 cases, with experts saying a lack of testing means the real figures are probably much higher.

With its curve of infections and deaths rising sharply, the country of 210 million ranks third in the world in terms of total cases, behind the United States and Russia.

The death toll — the sixth highest worldwide — has doubled in just 11 days, according to ministry data.

Despite the worrying spread of the disease, far-right President Jair Bolsonaro on Thursday continued his calls to scrap lockdown measures to revive the country’s flagging economy.

But almost all of the country’s 27 states are under some sort of lockdown order, though Brazilians are wearying of the restrictions in place since the end of March.

Sao Paulo state, the economic and cultural capital of Brazil, is by far the most affected area, with about a quarter of the country’s deaths and infections.

The virus’s impact has accelerated in Rio de Janeiro state in recent days.

© Agence France-Presse