Miami Desk, May 2 (efe-epa).- The death toll in Brazil from the Covid-19 coronavirus climbed by 421 to 6,750, the health ministry said Saturday even as the country’s right-wing president, Jair Bolsonaro, again defied his own government’s recommendations on social distancing to mingle with supporters on the street.
The additional 4,970 infections confirmed over the last 24 hours brought the number of cases to 96,599, second in the Americas only to the United States, now the global center of the pandemic.
And while experts agree that most countries are – unintentionally – undercounting coronavirus cases, a group of Brazilian scientists estimates that the true number of infected people in this nation of 210 million people is roughly 1.2 million, more than the US.
Health authorities are also investigating 1,330 other deaths as possibly due to Covid-19.
The number of Brazilians who have had coronavirus and recovered stands at 40,937, equivalent to 42 percent of cases.
During an excursion Saturday to Cristalina, 150km (90mi) from Brasilia, Bolsonaro departed from the official program to visit several shops, shake hands with supporters and pose for photos – all in contravention of the recommendations of the health ministry.
The president, who has consistently minimized the threat of Covid-19 and railed at Brazil’s state governors for imposing restrictions to halt contagion, justifies striding into crowds by insisting that it is his duty “to be with the people.”
Bolsonaro has taken lately to blaming the governors and mayors for the rising death toll while rejecting any responsibility on his part.
Earlier this week, responding to a question about the Covid-19 fatalities, the president said: “And so? I lament it, but what do you want me to do?”
In Ecuador, with a population less than a tenth that of Brazil, figures released Saturday added to doubts about the government’s official tallies of coronavirus deaths and cases.
President Lenin Moreno’s administration says the virus has claimed as many as 2,838 lives in Ecuador.
But information provided to Efe Saturday by officials in the coastal province of Guayas showed a total of 10,065 deaths in the jurisdiction during April, compared with 1,862 in the same month last year.
Guayas – mainly Guayaquil, the provincial capital and Ecuador’s largest city – is the epicenter of the Covid-19 outbreak in the Andean nation.
The director of the national civil registry, Vicente Andres Taiano, told Efe that 12,700 Ecuadorian residents passed away last month, more than double the 6,065 who died in April 2019.
Though it is not the responsibility of the civil registry to track causes of death, “it is indisputably a figure that could cause alarm that tells us something is happening, and (the additional deaths) could be attributable to Covid-19, because it is the external factor that has happened this year, Taiano said.
The government in neighboring Peru presented Saturday a four-step plan to reactivate the economy after 48 days of restrictions.
Though the past week has seen the highest daily death tolls, officials say that the pace of contagion has been slowed sufficiently to begin opening up.
Peru has lost 1,200 lives to the disease and the number of active cases is 42,534.
Under the plan introduced by President Martin Vizcarra, the return to normal activity will be phased-in over four months.
“We must seek a balance between controlling the illness and activating some sectors that generate the jobs citizens are demanding,” he told Peruvians in a televised address. EFE cms-sm-fgg/dr