Brazil has recorded more than 4,000 Covid-related deaths in 24 hours for the first time, as a more contagious variant fuels a surge in cases.
Hospitals are overcrowded, with people dying as they wait for treatment in some cities, and the health system is on the brink of collapse in many areas.
The country’s total death toll is now almost 337,000, second only to the US.
But President Jair Bolsonaro continues to oppose any lockdown measures to curb the outbreak.
He argues that the damage to the economy would be worse than the effects of the virus itself, and has tried to reverse some of the restrictions imposed by local authorities in the courts.
Speaking to supporters outside the presidential residence on Tuesday, he criticised quarantine measures and suggested without evidence that they were linked to obesity and depression. He did not comment on the 4,195 deaths recorded in the previous 24 hours.
To date, Brazil has recorded more than 13 million cases of coronavirus, according to the health ministry. Some 66,570 people died with Covid-19 in March, more than double the previous monthly record.
“Brazil now… is a threat to the entire effort of the international community to control the pandemic,” Dr Miguel Nicolelis, who has been closely tracking cases in the country, told the BBC.
“If Brazil is not under control, then the planet is not going to be safe, because we are brewing new variants every week… and they are going to cross borders,” he said.
In most states, patients with Covid-19 are occupying more than 90% of intensive care unit beds, according to the health institute Fiocruz (in Portuguese).
Several states have reported short supplies of oxygen and sedatives. But despite the critical situation, some cities and states are already easing measures limiting the movement of people.
“The fact is the anti-lockdown narrative of President Jair Bolsonaro has won,” Miguel Lago, executive director of Brazil’s Institute for Health Policy Studies, which advises public health officials, told the Associated Press.
“Mayors and governors are politically prohibited from beefing up social distancing policies because they know supporters of the president, including business leaders, will sabotage them,” he said.