Brazil is emerging as potentially the next big hot spot for the coronavirus amid President Jair Bolsonaro’s insistence that it is just a “little flu” and that there is no need for the sharp restrictions that have slowed the infection’s spread in Europe and the U.S.
As some U.S. states and European countries moved gradually Monday to ease their limits on movement and commerce, the intensifying outbreak in Brazil — Latin America ’s biggest country, with 211 million people — pushed hospitals to the breaking point, leaving victims to die at home.
“We have all the conditions here for the pandemic to become much more serious,” said Paulo Brandão, a virologist at the University of Sao Paulo.
Brazil officially reported about 4,200 deaths and almost 62,000 confirmed infections, but the true numbers there, as in many other countries, are believed to be vastly higher, given the lack of testing and the many people without severe symptoms who haven’t sought hospital care.
Some scientists said over 1 million in Brazil are probably infected. and the crisis could escalate as the country heads into winter, which can worsen respiratory illnesses.
Worldwide, the death toll topped 200,000, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. The number of dead in the U.S. reached about 55,000 — close to the 58,000 U.S. troops killed during the Vietnam War. Italy, Britain, Spain and France accounted for more than 20,000 deaths each.