The President of Brazil Jair Bolsonaro appears on the ramp of the Planalto Palace to wave to his supporters amidst the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic at the Planalto Palace on May 15, 2020 in Brasilia.
Andressa Anholete | Getty Images
Brazil is on course to become the country with the world’s second-highest number of coronavirus infections later on Friday, as President Jair Bolsonaro faces intensifying pressure for his handling of the epidemic.
At present, the U.S. has recorded by far the highest number of Covid-19 infections worldwide, with 1.5 million reported cases and nearly 95,000 deaths.
Russia has reported a total of 326,448 cases of the coronavirus, after suffering a record daily jump in fatalities related to the virus on Friday. It has reported a nationwide coronavirus death toll of 3,249 since the outbreak started, although some experts have questioned its relatively low death rate.
Meanwhile, South America’s largest country has recorded a total of 310,087 cases of the coronavirus, with 20,047 deaths nationwide, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
It comes after the country reported more than 18,500 infections in a single day on Thursday, while also suffering a record of 1,188 daily coronavirus deaths.
The speed and scale of new coronavirus cases in Brazil mean it is likely to overtake Russia when the country’s health ministry updates its figures later in the day.
To be sure, the actual number of coronavirus cases in Brazil is likely to be much higher than the official tally because the country has not carried out widespread testing, the country’s health ministry said on Thursday.
Health experts have suggested the true number of coronavirus cases in Brazil could be 15 times higher than the official figure. If those predictions are accurate, it would mean Brazil has roughly three times as many reported cases as the U.S.
Bolsonaro has dismissed the virus as a ‘little flu’
Brazil’s right-wing leader, an ideological ally of President Donald Trump, has repeatedly played down the threat of the coronavirus, dismissing it as a “little flu” and condemning state governors for imposing lockdowns that are causing job losses.
Last week, Brazil’s Health Minister Nelson Teich handed in his resignation after less than a month in the job.
The decision came after Teich resisted Bolsonaro’s calls for the wider use of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for the coronavirus.
An aerial view of a nearly empty Saara region, a large shopping area in the center of the city during a lockdown aimed at combating the coronavirus pandemic on March 24, 2020 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Buda Mendes | Getty Images
The drug, which has not been proven to effectively treat or prevent Covid-19, is the same one Trump has said he is taking in an effort to ward off the virus.
Public health officials have warned it is unsafe to do so and regulators say it can cause heart problems.