The number of Covid-19 fatalities in Brazil and Mexico has risen sharply on the deadliest day for both countries, as the pandemic threatens to worsen across the Americas.
The health ministry in Brazil on Tuesday reported 881 fatalities from the disease in 24 hours, taking its total to 12,400 and making it the world’s sixth worst-affected country for deaths, according to figures from John Hopkins University. Brazil’s total of 177,589 confirmed cases is the seventh highest in the world.
The United States remains by far the worst affected country and now has almost a third of the world’s 4.26m cases, with a national death toll of 82,339. The fatality figure could rise much higher according to modelling from the University of Washington that predicted more than 147,000 Americans would die from Covid-19 by early August – up nearly 10,000 from the last projection.
Dr Anthony Fauci, the US government’s top public health expert, has told senators that the real death toll was probably higher and Americans could face “serious consequences” if safeguards were relaxed too soon.
In New York, the United Nations security council met in a closed session to try again to reach agreement on its first resolution since the coronavirus pandemic started. But a dispute between the US and China over mentioning the World Health Organization remains unresolved, diplomats said.
Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s rightwing president, has consistently tried to play down the threat and has mimicked Donald Trump by saying that measures to contain the spread have caused more damage than the disease itself. Despite rising deaths and concerns that his government is not doing enough, Bolsonaro has said beauty salons, gyms and barbers should be treated as “essential services” and can reopen. Several state governors, with whom Bolsonaro has already clashed over social isolation measures, said they would ignore the decree. Both sides have threatened to take their fight to court. “Bolsonaro is walking toward the precipice and wants to take all of us with him,” wrote the Rio de Janeiro governor, Wilson Witzel.
Bolsonaro’s popularity has suffered since the crisis began amid a series of scandals. Disapproval of the president rose to more than 55% in a survey released on Tuesday, from 47% in January.
Mexico was jolted on Tuesday when it confirmed 1,997 new cases of coronavirus along with 353 additional deaths – the most deadly day since the pandemic began.
A relatively low number of 108 deaths had been recorded on Monday, leading to hope that Mexico was containing the spread because the daily toll had been falling since last week. But the figures from Tuesday renewed concerns about its response and took the number of confirmed cases to 38,324 with 3,926 deaths in total.
The situation in Mexico is causing concern in Washington where it is feared that dual citizens living south of the border may flee north to the United States if the outbreak in Mexico gets worse, Reuters reported on Wednesday, citing three officials. Hospitals in southern California have pressed the Trump administration to do more to limit the spread of cases across the border into the US but there are no plans yet to stop dual citizens returning. About 1.5 million US citizens live in Mexico, according to a US government estimate, many of them retirees.
In China seven new coronavirus infections were recorded on Tuesday compared with one a day earlier, the national health authority said. Of those new cases, six were infected by local transmission in Jilin province, which borders Russia and North Korea. The vice mayor of Jilin city said there was a huge risk the coronavirus could spread further and prevention measures had been stepped up.
Details on how Chinese authorities plan to test 11m residents of Wuhan, where the virus is believed to have originated, also emerged on Tuesday. “Each district shall make arrangements for nucleic acid screening plan for all members within 10 days,” said a Wuhan government notice. Caixin Global reported some districts would start this week and some next week.
The article cited Wuhan disease control officials saying the testing would be done by third-party companies and some hospital and disease control employees. However it said the rate of testing would be limited to 100,000 a day.
In other developments around the world:
Millions of people in the UK could be put at risk of contracting cornanvirus if they are forced to go back to work under the government’s plans to restart the economy despite Britain still seeing thousands of new cases a day.
US Republican senators have proposed legislation that would empower Trump to impose sanctions on China if Beijing does not give a “full accounting” for the coronavirus outbreak.
Twitter has told its employees they can work from home “forever”.
New Zealand has reported a second consecutive day of no new cases.
Cuba has begun mass testing for the virus as it appeared to have contained the spread. New cases have fallen to fewer than 20 per day from a peak of around 50 in April.