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Brazil Reports Big Surge In Coronavirus Infections

Jun 17, 2020

Brazil on Tuesday reported a national record of nearly 35,000 new coronavirus cases in a 24-hour period, even as the government has insisted that the outbreak is under control.

The health ministry added 34,918 new cases, but Brazilian media, in collaboration with state health departments, said the figure was probably undercounted by a few thousand. The ministry also announced 1,282 additional COVID-19 deaths, bringing the total to more than 45,000 since the pandemic began.

In the number of confirmed cases and deaths attributed to the disease, Brazil now ranks second only to the U.S.

Meanwhile, Walter Braga Netto, a top Brazilian government official dealing with the response to the outbreak, said Tuesday: "There is a crisis, we sympathize with bereaved families, but it is managed."

Netto's statement is in line with President Jair Bolsonaro's consistent efforts to downplay the danger posed by the disease. The right-wing Bolsonaro, who has called the new coronavirus "a little flu" and campaigned against shutdowns, has been widely accused of endangering the public.

He has said that the economic costs of remaining in lockdown outweigh the risk to public health.

In April, Bolsonaro fired then-Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta over the official's support of broad isolation measures recommended by the World Health Organization and international medical experts.

Most of the infections in Brazil have been concentrated in the heavily populated states of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro and in the northeast.

Despite the uptick in cases, Brazil's towns and cities, urged on by Bolsonaro, have been gradually re-opening for business.

NPR's Philip Reeves contributed to this report.

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