“Almost half of the cases reported were from the Americas,” World Health Organization General-Director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a virtual briefing. “The world is in a new and dangerous phase … the virus is still spreading fast, it is still deadly, and most people are still susceptible.”
The Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro maintains that the repercussions from social distancing measures still outweigh the severity of the virus in the country.
Bolsonaro has repeatedly downplayed the virus, referring to the coronavirus as a “little flu,” and told reporters earlier this month that he “regret[s] all the dead but it is everyone’s destiny.”
The United States, which has a population 56 percent bigger than Brazil, has reported over 2.2 million cases.
But health experts believe that the infection rate could be as much as seven times higher in Brazil.
Johns Hopkins University has reported that Brazil is conducting 14 tests a day for every 100,000 people, but medical officials say the amount of tests is up to 20 percent less than what they should be to accurately track the virus.
Although data shows that the virus is reaching a plateau in the cities near the Atlantic in the north, the rural countryside towns, which are less equipped to deal with the crisis, are seeing a spike in cases.
“There is a lot of regional inequality in our public health system and a shortage of professionals in the interior,” Miguel Lago, executive director of Brazil’s Institute for Health Policy Studies. said.
“That creates many health care deserts, with people going long distances to get attention. When they leave the hospital, the virus can go with them,” Lago added.
Brazil, which has seen 50,000 deaths according to their Ministry of Health, has struggled to maintain a health minister during the crisis.
Former Health Minister Dr. Nelson Teich resigned in May, after serving in office for only month. Reports later surfaced of his disagreements with Bolsonaro on social distancing measures and whether or not the anti-malaria drug, chloroquine, should be distributed. Teich referred to the drug as “an uncertainty” and differed with the president over how to balance the economy with the crisis.
His predecessor, Luiz Henrique, was fired from his position of health minister after also disagreeing with the president on how to handle the pandemic.
Bolsonaro has not yet filled the health minster role, even as the country has evolved into the new epicenter of the coronavirus.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.