Brazil Posts Record Daily Virus Cases as Disease Spreads Inland
An employee wearing a protective mask dispenses hand sanitizer to a shopper waiting outside a store in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photographer: Patricia Monteiro/Bloomberg)

Brazil Posts Record Daily Virus Cases as Disease Spreads Inland

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(Bloomberg) -- Brazil reported a record number of daily cases from coronavirus as the pandemic continues to rage across Latin America’s largest nation.

The country, which trails only the U.S. in cases and deaths, reported 34,918 new cases, bringing the number of infections to 923,189. The data compiled by Brazilian states also showed 1,282 new fatalities, pushing the total toll to 45,241.

The pandemic shows no signs of wavering as cases that were concentrated in capitals and the Southeast have spread inland and to poorer regions of the country of 210 million people. At the same time, several states and cities have started to lift quarantine orders in the past few weeks, sparking concern about a new wave of infections. Estimates from PUC University in Rio de Janeiro show cases will likely surpass 1.3 million by late June, with more than 60,000 deaths.

Brazil Posts Record Daily Virus Cases as Disease Spreads Inland

Brazil’s response to the pandemic has been plagued by political infighting and a lack of national coordination that resulted in varying and often conflicting measures from state to state and even city to city. Quarantines and lockdowns implemented by local governments have been repeatedly criticized by President Jair Bolsonaro, who argues that the recession ahead will cause more harm than the virus to a population that often can’t afford not to go to work.

Meanwhile, the economic toll of the pandemic continues to show in data. Retail sales fell the most ever in April, illustrating the devastation the outbreak is inflicting on consumption, which has historically been a key driver of Brazil’s economic growth. The dive follows record plunges from industrial production to formal job creation. Put together, the central bank is seen cutting its interest rate to an all-time low at Wednesday’s policy meeting.

Brazil Posts Record Daily Virus Cases as Disease Spreads Inland

The Brazilian economy could shrink as much as 9.1% this year if a second wave of the virus hits the country, following the easing of containment measures in place, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development warned. Currently, the OECD estimates Latin America’s largest economy to shrink 7.4% in 2020.

Allegations of corruption have added to the woes. This morning, police carried out search and seizure orders in the Northeast of the country, targeting the state of Pernambuco and its capital Recife. The investigations target alleged irregularities in the use of funds in the fight against the disease, and follow similar raids in Rio de Janeiro and Para over the past few weeks.

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