International

Brazil reports over 1,000 Covid-19 deaths

Brazil has become the first country in the southern hemisphere to surpass 1,000 deaths with coronavirus.

The health ministry confirmed 1,056 deaths and 19,638 cases. The numbers are likely to be much higher as only patients at hospitals are being tested.

Most states have imposed quarantine measures but President Jair Bolsonaro has challenged the restrictions, saying they needlessly harm the economy.

Officials say the outbreak is not expected to peak for a few weeks yet.

There is growing concern that the virus could spiral out of control, especially in poorer areas like favelas, crowded neighbourhoods where social distancing is hard to achieve and basic sanitation is lacking, the BBC’s Katy Watson in São Paulo reports

There are also fears that Brazil’s indigenous communities could be devastated by an outbreak. Experts say they are more vulnerable because they have fewer natural defences to external diseases.

Earlier this week, an indigenous teenager died in hospital in the northern state of Roraima, becoming the first officially confirmed death of an indigenous person.

Alvanei Xirixana, 15, was one of more than 20,000 members of the Yanonami ethnic group, who live mostly in large indigenous reservations along the Brazilian-Venezuelan border.

Meanwhile on Friday, President Bolsonaro hit the streets of the capital Brasília, drawing crowds and greeting followers. In his latest act of disregard for his own government’s recommendations of social distancing, he took pictures with supporters and shook hands.

But some residents banged pots and pans in anger while others shouted “Go home!” The far-right leader – who was not wearing a face mask or gloves – was particularly criticised for wiping his nose with his lower right arm at one point, then shaking hands with an elderly woman.

President Bolsonaro has frequently clashed with state governors and his own health officials over coronavirus, describing their reaction to the “little flu” as “hysteria”. He also argues that their restrictions on movements and business are creating an unnecessary drag on the economy.

The president’s actions have incurred political costs in recent weeks, with his popularity falling in opinion polls. Nightly protests have also been held in Brazil’s biggest cities, with residents banging pots and pans and shouting “Get out, Bolsonaro!”