As Brazil’s COVID-19 deaths surge, WHO says hospital system coping

GENEVA/BRASILIA: Brazil's COVID-19 death toll is on track to overtake Britain on Friday to become the second highest in the world with over 40,000 dead, but the World Health Organization said the nation's health system was standing up to the pressure.

"The system as such from the data we see is not overwhelmed," the WHO's top emergencies expert Dr Mike Ryan said, with few areas of Brazil using more than 80 per cent of their hospitals' intensive care bed capacity.

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Brazil clearly has hotspots in heavily-populated cities, he said, but overall its health system is coping with the world's second worst number of infections, 802,828 confirmed cases as of Thursday, second only to the United States.

"The data we have at the moment supports (the vision of) a system under pressure but a system still coping with the number of severe cases," Ryan said at a briefing in Geneva.

Brazil's Health Ministry has reported more than 1,200 deaths a day since Tuesday, a mounting toll as the country moves to ease quarantine restrictions and reopen businesses, a move called for by President Jair Bolsonaro.

The right-wing leader has minimised the gravity of the novel coronavirus, dismissing it "a little flu," and has accused state governments of exaggerating the number of infections and deaths to undermine him.

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On Thursday night, Bolsonaro encouraged his supporters to "find a way to get inside" hospitals to film whether the ICU beds are occupied or not, to provide images that the police and Brazil's intelligence agency could investigate.

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