Brazil is now the country with the third-highest COVID-19 death toll. On Friday, the country surpassed Italy after recording a single-day death toll of 1,473, bringing up its total death toll to 34,000. Its official number of COVID-19 cases also rose to 615,000, making it the second country in the world to have the most COVID-19 infections.

Brazil’s health ministry announced on Thursday night that Brazil had officially overtaken Italy as the country with the third-highest number of recorded deaths from COVID-19. Just before the announcement, Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro suggested in an online broadcast that the quarantine and social distancing measures being implemented across the country were to no avail.

“We can’t go on like this,” he said. “Nobody can take it anymore. The collateral impact will be far greater than those people who unfortunately lost their lives because of these last three months here,” he added.

Bolsonaro was referring to the impact of the coronavirus on the country’s economy. The spike in Mexico’s daily tally of COVID-19 deaths, which was announced before Bolsonaro’s address, sparked fears that Brazil and Mexico might face austere months ahead as their economies collapse. Brazil and Mexico are Latin America’s two largest economies and both have suffered a great deal since the pandemic struck the region.

Last week, the governments of Brazil and Mexico moved towards reopening some parts of their economies despite the risk of prematurely lifting restrictions. Miguel Lago, director of Brazil’s Institute for Health Policy Studies, described the reopening as a mistake and said this might only lead to an explosion of more COVID-19 infections in the country.

“I am very worried,” he said. “We are going to witness hospitals collapsing in almost every state. I think the worst is still to come,” he added. Lago also said Bolsonaro was to be blamed for the country’s dire situation, saying his incompetence and political self-interest had driven him to deliberately undermine social distancing so he could protect the economy and his chances of re-election in 2022.

“He doesn’t care about the lives of the Brazilians who will die because of his absolutely irresponsible behavior,” said Lago.

COVID-19 COVID-19 around the world. Photo by Gerd Altmann/Pixabay