The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared South America “a new epicentre” of the coronavirus pandemic while US President Donald Trump ramped up pressure on local governments to speed up the reopening of the reeling American economy.
Surges in infections across much of Central and South America have driven the global case count to nearly 5.3 million, with more than 340,000 deaths, even as Europe and the US cautiously move into a recovery phase.
The death toll in Brazil has soared past 20,000, and with 310,000 reported cases, it has the third-biggest caseload in the world behind the US and Russia.
“South America has become a new epicentre for the disease,” WHO emergencies director Mike Ryan said on Friday. “We’ve seen many South American countries with increasing numbers of cases… but certainly the most affected is Brazil at this point.”
Infections rose and ICUs were swamped in Mexico, Peru, Chile and Ecuador, countries lauded for imposing early shutdowns. Mexico passed 6,000 deaths on Wednesday. It recently reported more than 400 deaths a day.
In Chile, more than 90% of intensive care beds were full last week in Santiago, where the main cemetery dug 1,000 graves to prepare for a wave of deaths. Peru has 2.5 intensive care beds per 100,000 people, one quarter of the global standard.
Brazilians, meanwhile, got a shocking look at an expletive-laced meeting between President Jair Bolsonaro and his cabinet when a judge released a video at the centre of an investigation targeting the country’s leader. The video includes Bolsonaro using profanity to insult governors.
In Washington, Trump ramped up pressure on local governments, saying, “The governors need to allow these essential places of faith to open right now. If they don’t do it, I will override the governors. In America, we need more prayer, not less.”
Russia, meanwhile, has so far recorded 3,249 deaths – with a caseload of more 325,000 infections, second only to the US.
Meanwhile, Spain’s PM Pedro Sanchez has announced that overseas visitors can return to the country from July.
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