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Covid: Brazil’s coronavirus cases pass five million

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Confirmed cases of coronavirus in Brazil have passed five million, with deaths in the country approaching 150,000, officials say.

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Brazil’s health ministry reported 31,553 new cases on Tuesday, bringing the total infections to 5,000,694.

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The country is the third worst hit for infections, after the US and India.

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President Jair Bolsonaro has been accused of downplaying the risks of the virus throughout the pandemic, ignoring expert advice on restrictive measures.

Mr Bolsonaro has rejected criticism of his handling of the pandemic, but his decision to oppose lockdowns and focus on the economy has been hugely divisive.

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On Tuesday, Brazil recorded 734 new fatalities, bringing the death toll to 148,228, the ministry said.

Brazil has the highest number of deaths in Latin America.

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The state of São Paulo has been the worst hit, with around 36,000 deaths, followed by Rio de Janeiro, with about 19,000.

It is another milestone but the picture is not as grim here as it was a few weeks ago. The numbers of cases and deaths have been falling, although we are still talking around 5,000 fatalities a week – down from around 7,000 at the peak.

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The absolute numbers are still far worse than in Europe, but life here feels like it is returning to normal – shops, restaurants and some schools are starting to re-open.

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Despite initial criticism over President Jair Bolsonaro’s handling of the crisis – his downplaying of the virus from the very start – his approval ratings have actually risen, thanks to generous government handouts to around 60 million informal workers.

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The question is whether that support will continue as the government starts to reduce the payments while unemployment soars.

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In August, Brazil’s Vice-President Hamilton Mourão defended the government’s handling of the pandemic, instead blaming a lack of discipline among Brazilians for the failure to limit the spread of Covid-19 through social distancing measures.

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