A girl takes selfie in a metro as Brazil ramps up efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus disease. File
Brazil's Health Ministry registered 14,919 new confirmed cases in the prior 24 hours, taking the total to 233,142, behind the United States, Russia and the United Kingdom. Brazil has done just a fraction of the testing seen in those three countries.
The global distinction is likely to pile pressure on President Jair Bolsonaro, who lost his second health minister in a month on Friday as he defies public health experts and calls for widespread use of unproven drugs.
Bolsonaro has been fiercely critical of the orders by many of Brazil's state governors for strict social isolation and quarantine to combat the spread of the virus, including the closure of schools, shops and restaurants.
Bolsonaro argues that the toll on the economy is becoming unbearable and businesses must be allowed to reopen as soon as possible. The government now expects Brazil will post its biggest annual economic contraction this year since records began over a century ago.
Brazil's vice president, Hamilton Mourao, underwent a COVID-19 test and was placed in isolation at his official residence on Saturday, after a public servant who had been near him last week tested positive.
Mourao, 66, will not fulfill official duties on Monday, when the results are expected. Bolsonaro has undergone several coronavirus tests after ministers and other close aides tested positive.
Nationwide testing in Brazil still lags far behind European nations. Brazil had processed nearly 338,000 novel coronavirus tests in official labs by the beginning of the week, according to the Health Ministry. Another 145,000 tests were under analysis or waiting in line.
By contrast, Italy and Spain have each run some 1.9 million official diagnostic tests for the virus.
Brazil's Health Ministry on Saturday also reported 816 new deaths related to the virus, bringing the total to 15,633.
Shortages of critical equipment led to fierce competition among buyers from Europe, the US and elsewhere. A regional leader in Paris described the scramble to find masks a “worldwide treasure hunt.” Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned that New York could run out of ventilators in six days.
Italy reported its lowest daily death toll in two weeks, in a possible sign the tide may be turning in the deadliest disaster the country has faced since World War II. In Spain, officials said the number of fatalities had fallen for the third straight day.
Elsewhere in Europe, frustrations with COVID-19 curbs were spilling over, with scuffles breaking out at a large anti-restrictions protest in the German city of Kassel, and thousands joining a similar demonstration in Liestal, Switzerland.
During the seven-day period of Feb.3-9, the EU as a whole recorded an average daily of 103,250 new infections, which was 16 per cent down on the previous week. The average number of deaths each day was 3,137, or seven percent fewer.
The request in Geneva came a day after Julien Harneis, the UN coordinator for Pakistan, said diseases such as malaria, dengue fever, scabies and malnutrition are fueling a "second wave of death and destruction," with children and women in its path.
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