News Coronavirus Brazil now the world’s third highest for virus infections
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Brazil now the world’s third highest for virus infections

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Brazil has overtaken Britain to become the nation with the third-highest number of COVID-19 infections, recording 674 deaths and 254,220 confirmed cases on Tuesday morning (Australian time).

The virus toll in the South American country is now behind only the US and Russia as the worst in the world.

The country’s health ministry said 16,792 people in Brazil had died from the outbreak by Tuesday.

The daily tally does not indicate that infections and deaths necessarily occurred in the past 24 hours, but rather that the records were made in that time.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has lost popularity over his handling of the pandemic, but he retains a resilient core of support.

On Monday, a day after Brazil passed Spain and Italy to have the world’s fourth-largest COVID-19 outbreak, Mr Bolsonaro did push-ups with paratroopers and flouted social-distancing measures to pose for photos with children.

The President has consistently maintained that isolation measures introduced by local authorities will bring more chaos, hunger and poverty, and make it difficult to recover the economy and social order.

“We hope to be free of this question soon, for the good of all of us,” Mr Bolsonaro told a crowd in Brasilia on Sunday (local time).

“Brazil will come back stronger.”

Three weeks ago – with 53,000 COVID-19 cases and more than 3600 deaths across the country – medical officials in Rio de Janeiro and four other major Brazilian cities warned their hospital systems were on the verge of collapse, or were already too overwhelmed to take any more patients.

Morgues and cemeteries were also overwhelmed.

Health Minister Nelson Teich resigned last week, becoming the second top health official to leave their post since the pandemic began.

General Eduardo Pazuello is the interim health chief and Mr Bolsonaro is in no hurry to choose Mr Teich’s replacement, sources say.

According to data from the Health Ministry, Sao Paulo remains the worst hit by the outbreak, with 63,066 cases and 4823 deaths. Rio de Janeiro is in second place, with 26,665 infections and 2852 deaths.

-with AAP