Coronavirus: Brazil overtakes Spain, becomes world's fourth most infected country

Brazilian army officers disinfect a shelter for elderly people, homeless and patients with mental disorders, amid concerns of the spread of the coronavirus, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, May 14, 2020. (Reuters)

Brazil added more cases after a record number of infections Friday, overtaking Spain as the nation with the world’s fourth-highest number of confirmed Covid-19 patients.

The country added 14,919 cases, according to government data on Saturday, bringing its total to 233,142. It trails the US, Russia, and UK. The numbers exceed those in Spain, which has a total of 230,698 cases and is planning to extend the state of emergency for a fifth time to combat the outbreak.

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Brazil’s new cases come as Vice President Hamilton Mourao and his wife are in self-isolation after a civil servant came into contact with tested positive for COVID-19, according to a note sent by his press office. They are awaiting test results, which are expected on Monday.

The country reported a daily record for cases on Friday – hours after Jair Bolsonaro lost his second health minister in under a month as the president’s reopen-at-all-costs stance alienates the medical community and deepens a political clash with state governors.

Nelson Teich, who took over the post in April after Bolsonaro fired his predecessor amid public discord over social distancing, quit Friday after just 29 days on the job. The health ministry gave no details on who will replace him.

Brazil reported a record 15,305 new cases on Friday, solidifying its status as the new global hotspot for the disease. Still, it has a lower death rate than Spain and other badly-hit countries. Brazil lost 816 COVID-19 patients in the past 24 hours, raising total fatalities to 15,633 – which is almost half of the death toll of Spain, France and Italy.

Investors have taken notice of the turmoil. Brazil has the world’s worst-performing stock market and currency. The benchmark Ibovespa index’s 54 percent decline in US dollar terms is the biggest slide among key indexes globally, and the real slumped 31 percent.

With most Brazilians backing social distancing guidelines, Bolsonaro’s popularity is suffering, according to a MDA/CNT poll that interviewed 2,002 people May 7-10. The survey showed the president’s personal approval rating dropping 9 percentage points from the beginning of the year to 39 percent, and his disapproval rating hitting 55 percent.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:58 - GMT 06:58
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