Brazil Registers 42,725 New Cases Of COVID-19 In One Day

View of a crowded street in Florianopolis, Santa Catarina state, Brazil, on May 12, 2020 amid the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic. EDUARDO VALENTE / AFP
View of a crowded street in Florianopolis, Santa Catarina state, Brazil, on May 12, 2020 amid the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic. EDUARDO VALENTE / AFP

 

Brazil registered 42,725 cases of the new coronavirus in the past 24 hours, the health ministry said Wednesday, as experts warned the country was exiting lockdown too soon.

Brazil, which has had more people killed in the pandemic than any country except the United States, also reported 1,185 deaths in the past 24 hours, bringing its total death toll to 53,830.

The jump in infections was the second-highest in a single day in Brazil since the start of the pandemic. However, officials said the record — 54,771 cases, on June 19 — was due to system backlogs that had led to under-reporting for previous days.

Brazil now has nearly 1.2 million infections in total.

Experts say under-testing in the country of 212 million people means the real numbers are probably much higher.

The Pan American Health Organization’s head of communicable diseases, Marcos Espinal, urged Brazil Wednesday to carry out more tests.

The health ministry later said it would start testing 100 percent of even mild suspected cases in the public health system.

Despite the ongoing surge in infections and deaths, many states in Brazil are pressing ahead with plans to reopen their economies after months of painful stay-at-home measures to contain the virus.

But many experts warn it is too soon.

“We’re sending people to the slaughterhouse,” said Domingos Alves, a professor of medicine at the University of Sao Paulo and member of a scientific committee monitoring the crisis, COVID-19 Brasil.

“The curve in Brazil is still rising sharply. We’re still in the first wave.”

Brazil has struggled to set a strategy for dealing with the pandemic.

President Jair Bolsonaro, who has famously compared the virus to a “little flu,” has clashed with state and local authorities over their stay-at-home measures.

The far-right leader argues the economic impact of such measures risks being worse than the virus itself.

Lately, however, cities such as Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, the hardest-hit in Brazil, have begun gradually lifting emergency measures, even though the number of infections and deaths is still rising sharply.

Shoppers have swarmed commercial districts in Sao Paulo in recent days, while Rio’s famous beaches were packed last weekend, raising concerns about waning adherence to social distancing guidelines.

 

AFP

Brazil Suspends WhatsApp Digital Payments

WhatsApp
(FILES) In this file photo a picture taken on December 28, 2016 in Paris shows the logo of WhatsApp mobile messaging service. Facebook on June 15, 2020 added a digital payments feature to its WhatsApp messaging service, starting in Brazil but with an eye to expanding around the world. Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP

 

Brazil’s central bank said Tuesday it had ordered Visa and Mastercard to suspend a joint project with WhatsApp to roll out digital payments within the popular messaging service, over fears it would be anti-competitive.

Brazil, which has the second-most WhatsApp users worldwide after India, was the pilot country for the platform’s new integrated payments feature, which it launched on June 15 with an eye to rolling it out worldwide.

But the central bank, which regulates payment systems in Brazil, put the new feature on hold indefinitely.

“The reason for the central bank’s decision is to preserve an adequate competitive environment, ensuring an interoperable, fast, secure, transparent, open and economical payment system,” it said in a statement.

It also cited data privacy concerns.

WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, is the most popular mobile messaging app in the world, with more than 1.5 billion monthly users globally, according to market tracker Statistica.

The in-app payment feature, which could be accessed directly within a conversation with a participating business, was free for users.

Businesses were to be charged a small fee similar to a typical credit card transaction.

 

Brazil Passes 50,000 Deaths From Coronavirus – Official

 

Brazil on Sunday said it had registered more than 50,000 deaths from the coronavirus outbreak as well as about one million infections, as the second worst-affected country in the world struggles to control the disease.

The Ministry of Health reported 641 new deaths in the last 24 hours, taking the toll to 50,617, with 1,085,038 recorded infections.

Brazil is the second most-affected country behind the United States, which accounts for nearly 120,000 deaths and more than 2.2 million cases.

President Jair Bolsonaro, who has famously compared the virus to a “little flu,” has clashed with state and local authorities over their use of stay-at-home measures and business closures to contain it.

The far-right leader argues the economic impact of such measures risks being worse than the virus itself.

The spread of COVID-19 is accelerating in Latin America, with Mexico, Peru and Chile all hard-hit.

Mexico has recorded 170,000 cases and 20,349 deaths.

Peru passed 8,000 deaths on Sunday as it prepares to reopen shopping malls on Monday after 99 days of confinement.

Argentina on Sunday passed 1,000 deaths, underscoring the region’s woes.

Chile nearly doubled its reported coronavirus death toll Saturday to 7,144 under a new tallying method that includes probable fatalities from COVID-19.

Experts say under-testing means the real numbers are probably much higher.

Brazil Surpasses One Million COVID-19 Cases

Doctors of the Brazilian Armed Forces check an indigenous child of the Mayoruna ethnic group, in the Cruzeirinho village, near Palmeiras do Javari, Amazonas state, northern Brazil, on June 18, 2020, amid the COVID-19 pandemic. EVARISTO SA / AFP
Doctors of the Brazilian Armed Forces check an indigenous child of the Mayoruna ethnic group, in the Cruzeirinho village, near Palmeiras do Javari, Amazonas state, northern Brazil, on June 18, 2020, amid the COVID-19 pandemic. EVARISTO SA / AFP

 

Brazil passed the bleak milestone of one million coronavirus cases Friday, reporting a new one-day record number of infections as the pandemic continues to surge in Latin America’s largest country.

The health ministry said it had recorded 54,771 new infections, a jump it said was largely due to “instability” in its reporting system, which meant some states were reporting figures from multiple days.

That brought the total number of infections in Brazil to 1,032,913, with 48,954 deaths — second only to the United States worldwide.

Experts say under-testing means the real numbers are probably much higher.

Despite the grim figures, the infection curve in Brazil is finally showing signs of flattening.

But the country of 212 million people is one of the most worrying hotspots in the pandemic.

Since the start of June, it has registered the most new infections and deaths of any country in the world, according to an AFP count based on official figures — more than 518,000 and 19,000, respectively.

It has recorded daily death tolls of more than 1,000 on each of the past four days.

Brazil has struggled to set a strategy for dealing with the pandemic.

President Jair Bolsonaro, who has famously compared the virus to a “little flu,” has clashed with state and local authorities over their use of stay-at-home measures and business closures to contain it.

The far-right leader argues the economic impact of such measures risks being worse than the virus itself, and has instead pushed his health ministry to recommend chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine as treatments, despite uncertainty about the anti-malaria drugs’ effectiveness against COVID-19.

Bolsonaro threatened this month to quit the World Health Organization, accusing it of “ideological bias” against the drugs, and has ditched two health ministers since the start of the pandemic after clashing over policy differences.

The health minister he fired in April, Luiz Henrique Mandetta, told AFP Brazilians have suffered because of mixed messages from the government.

“The health ministry and state governors are telling people to stay home and practice social distancing, and the president is saying and doing the opposite,” he said.

A year and a half into his term, Bolsonaro has been weakened by the pandemic, as well as a series of investigations targeting him and his inner circle and spiraling clashes with Congress and the Supreme Court.

The World Bank meanwhile forecasts Latin America’s biggest economy will shrink by a record eight percent this year.

COVID-19: Brazil Education Minister Fined For Going Maskless

A supporter of President Jair Bolsonaro wears a face mask with Bolsonaro's image during a demonstration at Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on June 7, 2020. CARL DE SOUZA / AFP
A supporter of President Jair Bolsonaro wears a face mask with Bolsonaro’s image during a demonstration at Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on June 7, 2020.
CARL DE SOUZA / AFP

 

Brazil’s education minister has been fined for failing to wear a face mask at a rally for President Jair Bolsonaro, who has himself repeatedly flouted Brasilia’s masks-in-public rule amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Abraham Weintraub, one of the far-right president’s most controversial ministers, appeared at a rally organized by Bolsonaro supporters Sunday.

He shook hands and posed for pictures with demonstrators — many of whom also went without masks, which have been mandatory in public in the Brazilian capital since April.

That got him a 2,000-real ($385) fine from the Brasilia district government for being “caught in public without a protective mask,” according to Brazilian media, which ran photos of his fine slip.

Weintraub said on Twitter he had not yet been notified of the fine but that it appeared authentic.

“They’re trying to shut me up at any price,” he said.

Bolsonaro, who has likened the new coronavirus to a “little flu” and condemned the “hysteria” around it, also regularly goes without a mask at weekend rallies by his supporters, though he has not been fined so far.

Weintraub has repeatedly been embroiled in controversy, making anti-Chinese comments that were widely deemed racist, misspelling words in official documents and on Twitter, and recently saying the Supreme Court’s justices are “criminals” and should be “thrown in jail.”

He alluded to that comment again Sunday, telling demonstrators: “I’ve already said my piece on what I’d do with those criminals.”

As coronavirus has surged in Brazil, which now has the second-highest death toll worldwide after the United States, tension has been mounting between Bolsonaro and both state authorities and the legislative and judicial branches of government.

The Brasilia government had banned last weekend’s rallies on grounds of fighting the spread of coronavirus.

On Saturday, after police broke up a protest camp by one group of hardcore Bolsonaro supporters, the activists tried to storm the Supreme Court building, then shot fireworks at it.

On Monday, authorities arrested six far-right activists for “anti-democratic acts.” The arrests were ordered by Supreme Court Justice Alexandre de Moraes.

Chief Justice Jose Antonio Dias Toffoli called the fireworks shot at the Supreme Court an “attack” and said in a statement he would not accept threats against the court.

Neymar Faces Criminal Complaint For Homophobia

In this file photo taken on June 06, 2019 Brazil’s Neymar warms up before a friendly football match against Qatar at the Mane Garrincha stadium in Brasilia ahead of Brazil 2019 Copa America. Neymar is ready to cut his salary by 12 million euros to leave Paris Saint-Germain as part of a “verbal agreement” reached between the Brazilian and Barcelona,

 

A Brazilian gay rights activist has filed a criminal complaint against Neymar for homophobia, after the football superstar called his mother’s boyfriend an anti-gay slur in comments leaked to the media.

The Sao Paulo prosecutor’s office confirmed to AFP it had received the complaint, which it must now examine to decide whether to open a case against the Paris Saint-Germain and Brazil star.

Neymar’s communications team declined to comment on the complaint.

The case was brought by activist Agripino Magalhaes, who said on Instagram he planned to press charges against Neymar and his friends for “criminal homophobia, hate speech and death threats” over comments made in a private conversation on a gaming site.

In the audio recording, Neymar, 28, can be heard using slurs against his mother’s new boyfriend, Tiago Ramos, as he and his friends discuss a supposed fight between the couple.

Ramos, 22, and Neymar’s mother, Nadine Goncalves, 52, announced in April they were dating.

Brazil’s tabloid press was soon running lurid stories about Ramos, a model who is openly bisexual.

READ ALSO: Elevated Extreme Poverty To Persist Through 2021 – World Bank

Neymar and his friends were discussing rumors that the new couple had had a violent fight, after Ramos was hospitalized last Tuesday with arm wounds sustained at Goncalves’s house, according to police.

Neymar said his mother had lied to her family, indicating he did not believe her story that Ramos had tripped on the stairs and cut himself on a pane of glass.

One of his friends can be heard saying that they should assault Ramos with a broomstick in the anus.

Neighbors reportedly said they heard screaming from a fight at Goncalves’s house the night Ramos was injured.

However, Neymar’s communications team said Ramos and Goncalves had testified before police that the incident was a “domestic accident.”

AFP

Brazil Accused Of Manipulating COVID-19 Death Toll

Brazilian Davi da Silva Alves, 39, resident of the Divino Espirito Santo community of the Pacaja River, who suffers from COVID-19 symptoms, is seen on a helicopter-ambulance to be transported from Breves, Para state, Brazil, to the Santa Casa de Misericordia Hospital in Belem, the state’s capital, on June 8, 2020. TARSO SARRAF / AFP.

 

Critics are accusing President Jair Bolsonaro of manipulating the figures showing the spiralling coronavirus death toll in Brazil, after his government first stopped reporting the total number of fatalities and infections, and then released conflicting data.

Even as infections soar in Brazil, the latest epicenter in the pandemic, the health ministry has made a series of unusual moves on how it presents the numbers on COVID-19.

The ministry had been the most widely used source for nationwide virus statistics, which paint a grim picture of its impact on Brazil: officially, 37,134 deaths, the third-highest toll in the world, after the United States and Britain; and 707,412 infections, the second-highest caseload, after the US.

Last week, the ministry postponed its daily tally of infections and deaths by around two and a half hours, to just before 10:00 pm.

Critics accused the government of doing that to dodge negative coverage on “Jornal Nacional,” a popular evening news program on Globo TV, Brazil’s biggest broadcaster.

READ ALSO: COVID-19 Travel Bans Separate Families Even As Lockdowns Ease

Bolsonaro himself appeared to confirm as much when asked about the delay.

“That’s the end of that story for ‘Jornal Nacional,'” the far-right president said.

Then the ministry stopped publishing the total number of deaths and infections, releasing only the figures for the past 24 hours for the country of 212 million people.

– ‘Statistical coup d’etat’ –

Things only got more muddled on Sunday, when the ministry released two different daily tolls, without initially explaining why or indicating which was correct.

It explained Monday that the previous day’s figures had been corrected because some data supplied by state health officials included duplicates.

It also said it had adopted a new methodology, with a new website, where victims will be counted under the day they died, rather than the day that posthumous testing confirmed a COVID-19 diagnosis.

“There are cases where lab results are for deaths that occurred weeks ago,” it said in a statement.

“The curve by date of death… helps understand the dynamic of the disease and how the authorities need to concentrate their efforts.”

It also moved the daily update back up to 6:00 pm.

But critics have been brutal.

“This is a statistical coup d’etat,” said newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo, one of Brazil’s most-read, in a scathing editorial.

“Manipulating the number of dead in a pandemic is a crime,” said influential columnist Miriam Leitao in newspaper Globo.

Top media groups, including Folha and Globo, announced they were teaming up to release their own daily figures based on data collected directly from state health officials.

Already, their toll diverges from the official one, with 178 more deaths and 3,475 more infections.

Congress said it, too, would set up an independent count.

– ‘Totalitarian regime’ –

Brazil’s health ministry is currently run by an interim minister, whose two predecessors were ousted mid-pandemic after disagreements with Bolsonaro.

The president has famously compared the new coronavirus to a “little flu” and railed against stay-at-home measures to contain it, citing their economic toll.

Former health minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta, who was fired by Bolsonaro in April, said the handling of the data shows “the government is more harmful than the virus.”

Criticism over the data confusion only increased when well-known businessman Carlos Wizard, who had been tapped to serve as a top adviser in the health ministry, said Friday that the government’s official figures to date were “fantastical and manipulated.”

That outraged state health officials who provide the underlying data. They accused the government of trying to make coronavirus victims “invisible.”

Wizard later apologized to victims’ families over the remark, and withdrew his candidacy for the health ministry post after online protesters threatened to boycott his companies.

The government has become the butt of jokes for its approach to the numbers.

When it began putting the number of recovered patients in larger font than the number of dead on its website, one social media user snickered it was like describing Brazil’s humiliating 7-1 loss to Germany in the 2014 World Cup by saying, “Brazil scored one goal, with 52 percent ball possession and eight shots on goal.”

Others are less amused.

“Manipulating statistics is a move used by totalitarian regimes,” Supreme Court Justice Gilmar Mendes wrote on Twitter.

AFP

Black Boy Falls From Ninth Story Building In Brazil, Sparks Racism Protest

A demonstrator holds a sign reading "Black Lives Matter" in demand of justice for the death of five-year-old Miguel Otavio Santana da Silva, the son of a black maid who on June 2 fell from the ninth floor of a building while under the watch of his mother's white employer, in Recife, Pernambuco State, in northeastern Brazil, on June 5, 2020.  Leo Malafaia / AFP
A demonstrator holds a sign reading “Black Lives Matter” in demand of justice for the death of five-year-old Miguel Otavio Santana da Silva, the son of a black maid who on June 2 fell from the ninth floor of a building while under the watch of his mother’s white employer, in Recife, Pernambuco State, in northeastern Brazil, on June 5, 2020. Leo Malafaia / AFP

 

Hundreds of Brazilians marched Friday over the death of a black boy whose mother, a maid, had entrusted him to her white employer, in an echo of the protests racking the United States.

Five-year-old Miguel da Silva died Tuesday when he fell from the ninth story of the highrise where his mother worked in the city of Recife.

She had left him in the care of the white woman she worked for while she took the family dog for a walk.

Security camera footage played on Brazilian TV shows the white employer interacting with the boy as he stands inside the service elevator, then pushing the button for the top floor and leaving him inside alone.

Media reports said after exiting the elevator the boy climbed through a window, up a balcony railing and fell to his death.

The case triggered a Brazilian take on the protests sweeping the United States over racism and police brutality.

“Vidas negras importam” — “Black lives matter” — said signs carried by protesters in Recife, the capital of the northeastern state of Pernambuco.

“It’s important to be at this protest, because Miguel’s life represents the reality of lots of other black kids, the children of domestic workers. He could have been any one of us,” said protester Nathalia Ferreira.

Wearing face masks against the coronavirus pandemic and T-shirts with the boy’s picture, the protesters marched from the court of justice to the building where he died.

“We are worried this crime will be taken lightly and left unpunished. It is important that justice be done,” said Monica Oliveira of the Pernambuco Black Women’s Network.

As in the United States, race relations are fraught in Brazil, the last country in the Americas to abolish slavery.

Blacks make up 56 percent of Brazil’s population, but earn about half as much as whites on average, have lower life expectancy and according to activists face deeply ingrained discrimination.

Brazil Records 1,349 Single-Day COVID-19 Deaths

A gravedigger wearing protective clothing is silhouetted at sunset as he digs a grave for a victim of COVID-19 at the Caju cemetery in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on May 28, 2020. CARL DE SOUZA / AFP

 

 

Brazil reported a record 1,349 coronavirus deaths in a 24-hour period Wednesday, the health ministry said, as the pandemic continued to take a grim toll on Latin America’s hardest-hit country.

The figure brought the total death toll from the new coronavirus in Brazil to 32,548, with 584,016 confirmed infections — the second-highest caseload worldwide, after the United States.

Brazil’s death toll, which has doubled in 17 days, is currently the fourth-highest worldwide, after the US, Britain, and Italy.

Experts say under-testing in the country of 210 million people means the real numbers are probably much higher.

President Jair Bolsonaro has fiercely criticized coronavirus isolation measures, even as the number of infections and deaths continues to soar in Brazil.

The far-right leader has urged business leaders to wage “war” on state governors who order stay-at-home measures, arguing they are needlessly hurting Latin America’s biggest economy.

Bolsonaro, who famously compared the virus to a “little flu,” appears to have pinned his hopes on the drugs chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine to stop it.

He has gone through two health ministers since the pandemic began, firing one and reportedly falling out with the other over his insistence on recommending hydroxychloroquine despite a lack of scientific consensus on its safety and effectiveness against COVID-19.

The former number two under ousted health minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta, Joao Gabbardo, told AFP that Brazil was now facing a complex scenario with different trajectories of infection in different regions.

“We have several curves,” Gabbardo said, adding Brazil could face a similar situation to Italy, “which had a large number of deaths in the north and not in the south.”

Brazil has been hardest hit so far in the southeast — the business and industrial corridor that includes Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro — the impoverished northeast, and the north, including the Amazon region with its vulnerable indigenous population.

The impact has been felt less in the south of the country so far.

However, Gabbardo warned that if the coronavirus starts to spread rapidly in the south, which is about to hit cold winter temperatures and peak season for respiratory infections, “there could be very high pressure on the health system.”

– Mexico death toll surges –

Underlining the pandemic’s new epicenter in Latin America, Mexico meanwhile reported more than 1,000 coronavirus-related deaths in a 24-hour period for the first time.

The daily death toll of 1,092 was more than double the 470 fatalities reported the day before.

Health undersecretary Hugo Lopez-Gatell explained the stark jump by saying that some of the deaths recorded on Wednesday had occurred more than two weeks earlier.

The country of more than 120 million people has now recorded 11,729 deaths — the second-highest toll in Latin America, after Brazil — and 101,238 cases, the office said.

Despite the rapid rise in cases, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s government began gradually reopening the economy this week, in what he called a transition to “the new normal.”

The Pan American Health Organization warned Tuesday of a possible jump in infections in Latin America after some countries, including Mexico, started relaxing stay-at-home measures.

AFP

Brazil To Test COVID-19 Vaccine Developed In UK

A government health worker shows a Covid-19 test at the Roli Madeira riverside community in the southwest of Marajo Island, in the state of Para, Brazil, on June 1, 2020. TARSO SARRAF / AFP

 

 

Researchers in hard-hit Brazil on Wednesday said they would begin testing a coronavirus vaccine developed in Britain, while across the Atlantic European nations began reopening borders in a bid to emerge from months of devastation caused by the disease.

Authorities in Brazil — the latest frontline of the pandemic, with deaths and infections on the rise — imposed fresh restrictions in the country’s northeast after reporting “extremely high” numbers of cases.

Concern over the spread of the coronavirus in Latin America has increased even as the health crisis has eased in other regions of the world.

“The Americas continues to account for the most cases,” World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a briefing in Geneva.

The UN body also said it would resume trials of hydroxychloroquine a week after halting them following a study in The Lancet medical journal that suggested the drug could harm COVID-19 patients.

The U-turn came after The Lancet itself cast doubt on the study after it was widely contested by scientists.

Another study published in the New England Journal of Medicine Wednesday suggested that taking hydroxychloroquine shortly after being exposed to COVID-19 does not help prevent infection in a statistically meaningful way, however.

The WHO has been holding clinical trials to find a treatment for COVID-19, which has killed more than 382,000 people and wrought vast economic damage since emerging in China late last year.

– Focus on Americas –

“For several weeks, the number of cases reported each day in the Americas has been more than the rest of the world put together,” Tedros said.

“We are especially worried about Central and South America, where many countries are witnessing accelerating epidemics.”

Chile’s government said it was extending a three-week shutdown of the capital Santiago and its population of seven million as the death toll there reached a new daily record.

Health officials said 87 people had died in the previous 24 hours, and nearly 5,000 new infections were recorded. Chile has now registered more than 113,000 infections and 1,275 deaths.

– Cautious reopening –

But outside of Latin America nations are cautiously reopening schools, beaches and businesses after months of quarantine, even as some still face rising numbers of cases.

European nations among the hardest hit by the outbreak have mostly flattened out infection curves. They have turned to the tricky task of balancing economic recovery against the risk of a second wave of cases.

Germany will plough 130 billion euros ($146 billion) into a stimulus package to kick-start an economy severely hit by the pandemic, Chancellor Angela Merkel announced.

Berlin will also ease its blanket travel warning for European nations from June 15.

Italy — the first country badly hit in Europe — opened its borders to European travellers Wednesday, hoping tourism will revive its recession-hit economy three months after its shutdown.

But with health experts warning over reopening too quickly, some fear foreign visitors may be reluctant to travel.

“I don’t think we’ll see any foreign tourists really until the end of August or even September,” said Mimmo Burgio, a cafe owner near Rome’s Colosseum. “Who’s going to come?”

Austria announced it would scrap virus controls on all land borders, except for Italy.

Belgium will reopen its borders to travellers from the EU, Britain, and members of Europe’s passport-free travel zone on June 15.

But Britain — with the second-highest death rate in the world after the US at nearly 40,000 fatalities — is still advising against non-essential travel.

– Vaccine testing –

The race to find a vaccine meanwhile gathered pace.

Europe’s four largest economies — France, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands — are forming an alliance to speed up the production of a vaccine on European soil, Dutch officials said.

Brazil said it would begin testing a vaccine being developed by Oxford University next week, the first country outside Britain to take part in the study.

The vaccine will be tested in Brazil on 2,000 health services volunteers, said the Federal University of Sao Paulo, coordinating the study.

Testing a vaccine in Brazil “is very important because we are in the acceleration phase of the epidemiological curve,” the university’s president Soraya Smaili told AFP.

Authorities imposed curfews across a vast swathe of the Brazilian state of Bahia in the country’s hard-hit northwest.

“It is necessary and urgent to impose greater restrictions, after recording extremely high (infection) rates,” in the area, said Bahia governor Rui Costa.

Brazil has the world’s second-highest COVID-19 caseload after the United States, with more than half a million cases and 31,000 deaths.

In Africa, which has so far escaped the worst of the pandemic, police in Senegal arrested more than 70 people after protests tinged by violence broke out in several cities.

Crowds demanded a nighttime coronavirus curfew, imposed by President Macky Sall on March 23, be lifted.

The country has recorded nearly 4,000 cases of coronavirus, 45 of them fatalities.

COVID-19: Brazil Death Toll Tops 30,000 As Italy Reopens Borders

ERNESTO BENAVIDES / AFP.

 

Brazil surpassed 30,000 deaths from the coronavirus outbreak as the disease continued to rip through Latin America, while Italy — at one point the hardest-hit country — prepared to reopen its borders in time for the European summer.

After chalking up devastating human losses in Europe, the virus has now taken a firm grip in Latin America, where Brazil surpassed a chilling landmark late Tuesday.

The latest official COVID-19 death toll of 31,199 is the fourth-highest in the world, after the US, Britain and Italy.

The figures come as some Brazilian states began to emerge from weeks of economically-stifling quarantine measures despite warnings from the WHO and epidemiologists it is too much, too soon.

“In the current situation, relaxing the measures is adding gasoline to the fire,” Rafael Galliez, an infectious diseases expert at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, told AFP.

– Surf’s up again in Rio –

Yet surfers and swimmers streamed back to the beach in Rio de Janeiro as the city started easing lockdown measures, allowing the reopening of places of worship and water sports.

“I think that here, in the water, there is no risk. It’s not like in the stores,” said Cesar Calmon as he delighted in the waves off Ipanema beach.

READ ALSO: Italy Reopens To Tourists From Europe

In Europe, most countries have flattened their initial infection curves and are gradually easing out of confinement as they try to curb the economic fallout of the shutdowns.

Italy reopens its borders to travellers from Europe Wednesday, three months after the country went into lockdown, with hopes for economic revival pinned on reigniting its tourism industry.

But there were fears many foreign tourists will be put off visiting a country where 33,000 people died of the disease.

“Come to Calabria. There’s only one risk: that you’ll get fat,” the southern region’s governor Jole Santelli said as the race began to lure big-spenders — or any spenders — back to Italy’s sandy shores.

– Symbolic victory –

In a symbolic victory in the French capital, Parisians reclaimed beloved cafe terraces that were allowed to sprawl across pavements to accommodate social distancing measures.

“Coffee on a terrace, that’s Paris!” said Martine Depagniat, among those enjoying the new freedom after 10 weeks of closures.

Schools, swimming pools, pubs and tourist sites are steadily reopening across the continent to ease the economic pain, and stock markets rose on European optimism, despite fears of a second wave of infections.

Greece suspended flights to and from Qatar on Tuesday after detecting multiple infections on a flight from Doha to Athens.

The respiratory disease has claimed nearly 400,000 lives and infected more than 6.2 million in its rampage around the globe, upending life for billions since it first emerged in China late last year.

The focus now falls on Latin America, which passed one million cases this week.

Brazil has more than half of that caseload — 555,383 — making it the second most affected country after the United States, where experts fear mass demonstrations over the police killing of African American George Floyd could reignite the spread of COVID-19.

The World Health Organization has warned that healthcare systems could soon be overwhelmed with Peru, Chile and Mexico also seeing big daily increases in infections.

Mexico has also started rebooting the economy after more than two months of shutdown, allowing activity in the car, mining and construction industries to resume.

– Journalists die –

In Venezuela the virus forced political rivals to come together, with the government of Nicolas Maduro striking a deal with opposition leader Juan Guaido, who claims the presidency, to seek resources to address the disease’s spread, all parties confirmed Tuesday.

Meanwhile, at least 20 journalists have died from the coronavirus outbreak in Peru, most of them infected while reporting on the pandemic, often with little protection, the country’s journalists’ union said.

Peru is Latin America’s second worst-hit country after Brazil with more than 170,000 cases and 4,600 deaths.

“As of June 1, the number of dead colleagues is 20 in all of the country,” said Zuliana Lainez of the National Association of Journalists.

Many of them contracted the disease while reporting from streets, markets and hospitals on the effects of the virus, without proper protective equipment, Lainez said.

“They have gone to hospitals, which are foci of infection, with homemade masks,” she said.

Back where it all began in Wuhan, the Chinese city where the virus first emerged in December, officials touted another success after finding only 300 positive cases after testing nearly 10 million people over the past two weeks.

“These numbers show that Wuhan is now the safest city,” said Feng Zijian, deputy director of China’s National Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

AFP

COVID-19: Former Brazil Star To Cycle 600 Km To Training To Raise Money For Poor

 In this file photo taken on November 11, 2012, footballer Fred, of Fluminense, celebrates after scoring against Palmeiras during a Brazilian championship match held at Prudentao stadium in Presidente Prudente, in the state of Sao Paulo, Brazil.  Yasuyoshi CHIBA / AFP
In this file photo taken on November 11, 2012, footballer Fred, of Fluminense, celebrates after scoring against Palmeiras during a Brazilian championship match held at Prudentao stadium in Presidente Prudente, in the state of Sao Paulo, Brazil. Yasuyoshi CHIBA / AFP

 

Former Brazil international Fred took off on a five-day, 600-kilometer cycle ride on Monday to come to the help of poor families affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

The 36-year-old announced on Twitter his “Tour de Fred” from the south eastern city of Belo Horizonte to Rio de Janeiro, where he plays for Fluminense.

He said he wants to “help 4,000 poor families” and vowed to donate a food basket for every kilometer he rides, while he has also launched an online campaign to collect donations.

Fred left at dawn on Monday and is due to take dirt tracks and small roads to avoid main highways and the potential of crowds breaking social distancing rules in coming out to cheer him on.

His final destination is Fluminense’s training center close to the 2016 Rio Olympic Park.

Fred scored 18 goals in 39 appearances for Brazil and played at the 2006 and 2014 World Cups.

He helped Brazil to victory in the 2007 Copa America and 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup.

Fred made his name in Europe for Lyon, helping the French side win Ligue 1 three years in a row from 2006-08.

He returned home in 2009 and won two Brazilian titles with Fluminense.

Fred was born in Teofilo Otini, close to Belo Horizonte, and began his career with local side America Mineiro.

He has also played for Cruzeiro and Atletico Mineiro, the two biggest clubs from Belo Horizonte.