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Brazil overtakes Spain, now fifth in the world in COVID deaths

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro speaks with media before meeting with supporters amid the Coronavirus outbreak, at the Palacio do Alvorada in Brasilia, Brazil, on March, 17, 2020.

ANDRESSA ANHOLETE/GETTY IMAGES/TNS

By JULIA LEITE AND MARIO SERGIO LIMA | Bloomberg News | Published: May 30, 2020

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SAO PAULO, Brazil (Tribune News Service) — Brazil overtook Spain and now ranks fifth in the world in number of coronavirus deaths as the infection continues to spread through Latin America's largest economy.

The country reported 1,124 new deaths Friday, pushing the total to 27,878. In number of infections, Brazil is already second globally with 465,166 cases, trailing only the U.S.

A disjointed response that included different and often contradictory rules that varied from state to state and even city to city has made the nation of 210 million people a hotspot for the disease. Once restricted to rich neighborhoods and capitals in close contact with international travelers, now the virus has migrated to poorer regions and also inland. There are cases in 70% of Brazilian cities, the Health Ministry said on Friday. With winter approaching the Southern Hemisphere, the country is entering a period of increased cases of respiratory diseases, further adding to concern.

There's no indication the pandemic is slowing. Earlier this week, the Health Ministry said the curve of cases was still growing, and report by UBS published Wednesday said that six of Brazil's 27 states are peaking, while total deaths are increasing in 21 states. Still, some states including Sao Paulo have started to set guidelines to restart businesses as the two months of loosely enforced quarantines take a toll on the economy.

The pandemic's toll on activity is at the center of a clash between President Jair Bolsonaro and state governors. Bolsonaro, who has often dismissed the virus as "just a flu," has been pushing for people to go back to work, many times at odds with local quarantine orders.

On Friday, data showed gross domestic product fell 1.5% in the first quarter from the previous three-month period, the biggest quarterly tumble in nearly five years and the strongest indication yet that Latin America's largest economy is on the cusp of a historic recession. The coronavirus outbreak has caused a crisis in confidence, decimated jobs and undercut company and consumer spending.

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