Brazil Records Highest Daily Coronavirus Deaths in the Southern Hemisphere as Jair Bolsonaro Says 'Worst is Over'

The novel coronavirus outbreak in Brazil has killed more than 8,500 people to date, including at least 615 reported on Wednesday, according to the figures from the country's health ministry.

Reporting the highest daily death count in the Southern Hemisphere on Wednesday, Brazil also saw a record number of nearly 11,000 new cases on Wednesday, one of the highest daily infections in the world, after the U.S. and followed by Russia.

Speaking to reporters earlier on Tuesday, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said: "I don't know yet if the number of deaths is less than yesterday. But if it is, if I'm not mistaken, it'll be the sixth consecutive day in which the number of deaths has fallen."

"That's a sign that the worst is over, and I ask God for this to be true," he claimed.

But the worst may not be over yet, according to the latest weekly projection model from the Imperial College COVID-19 Response Team: the WHO (World Health Organization) Collaborating Centre for Infectious Disease Modelling within the MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis, J-IDEA (Abdul Latif Jameel Institute for Disease and Emergency Analytics), Imperial College London.

The projection model for this week predicted the daily death toll in Brazil could potentially surpass 800 by May 11. The model also projected the number of deaths in Brazil to be between 4,000 and 5,080 by this week.

"The accuracy of these forecasts vary with the quality of surveillance and reporting in each country. We use the reported number of deaths due to COVID-19 to make these short-term forecasts as these are likely more reliable and stable over time than reported cases. In countries with poor reporting of deaths, these forecasts will likely represent an under-estimate while the forecasts for countries with few deaths might be unreliable," the report noted.

Brazil's infection rate (or "transmissibility") according to its estimated effective R (reproductive) number, which measures how many people one person infects, was projected to be around 1.49 for this week. An R number of one indicates one person infects one other person on average, while a value of two would mean one person infects two other people, and so forth.

"Our estimates of transmissibility reflect the epidemiological situation at the time of the infection of COVID-19 fatalities. Therefore, the impact of controls on estimated transmissibility will be quantifiable with a delay between transmission and death," the report notes.

This week Brazil imposed its first lockdown measures in three states from Tuesday, by which time the country's death toll had soared past 7,900.

A 10-day lockdown began on Tuesday in São Luís, the capital of the northeastern state of Maranhão, and three neighboring towns, with residents required to remain in their homes.

Only essential services, including hospitals, pharmacies and supermarkets, have been allowed to remain open, with roadblocks set up and private cars banned, The Guardian reported.

Fortaleza, the capital of the Ceara state, will enter a full lockdown on Friday, Reuters reported.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, April 2020
Volunteers disinfect an alley at the Santa Marta favela in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, during the COVID-19 pandemic on April 20, 2020

The state of São Paulo is reported to have the most confirmed cases, followed by the states of Rio de Janeiro in the country's southeast region and Ceara in the northeast.

The growth curve of the outbreak has not been flattening and more lockdowns may need to be introduced, Brazil's Minister of Health, Nelson Teich, told reporters.

Brazil's leading epidemiological institute, Fiocruz (Oswaldo Cruz Foundation), has sent a report to the state prosecutor's office recommending a lockdown in the Rio de Janeiro metropolitan region, which has been forwarded the office of the governor and mayor of Rio de Janeiro, the state's eponymous capital city.

Brazil has seen more than 126,600 confirmed cases, the most cases in the Southern Hemisphere and the ninth-highest in the world, as of Thursday, according to the latest figures from Johns Hopkins University.

But the number is likely to be higher, with the results of more than 100,000 tests done at private labs yet to be officially registered by the government, the subsecretary for the country's health ministry, Wanderson Oliveira, confirmed.

Death tolls are feared to be the highest in the favelas, the slum areas of Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and other Brazilian cities where a vast number of people live crammed together in small areas.

"There is a great fear that uncontrolled contamination will happen there [the favelas]," Lourival Panhozzi, president of the Brazilian Association of Funeral Service Providers, which represents Brazil's 13,400 private funeral companies, told the Associated Press.

Last month, scientists claimed there are probably around a million infected people in Brazil, the AP reported.

Health authorities report testing has been dramatically ramped up from the current 2,700 tests conducted per day. "At the most elevated level of (test) production, which we think we'll get to in the middle of July, we'll get to 70,000 per day," Oliveira said.

The novel coronavirus, which was first reported in Wuhan, China, has infected more than 3.7 million people across at least 187 countries and regions. Over 263,900 have died, while more than 1.2 million have reportedly recovered from infection, as of Thursday, according to the latest figures from Johns Hopkins University.

The graphic below, provided by Statista, illustrates countries with the most confirmed COVID-19 cases.

statista coronavirus
Total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases by country. Statista