Brazil hit a record high for new coronavirus cases bringing the total number of deaths in the country from Covid-19 to almost 19,000.
The country’s health ministry reported 19,951 new cases in the previous 24 hours, bringing the total to 291,579 confirmed cases.
This new surge tops the previous record set Tuesday. Reported deaths caused by coronavirus also increased by 888 on Wednesday, bringing to the country’s total to 18,859 deaths, the ministry said.
Brazil’s alarming numbers come days after Sao Paulo’s mayor warned that its health system could be overwhelmed very soon if residents don’t follow social distancing guidelines. Officials in the major city of 12 million have declared a five-day holiday in a bid to get residents to stay home.
President Jair Bolsonaro has been widely criticized for his handling of the outbreak. The far-right former army captain has long snubbed social-distancing measures, arguing instead for the reopening the economy.
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He has also become an increasingly strong advocate for the malaria drug chloroquine as a possible remedy for COVID-19, despite warnings from health experts.
On Wednesday, the Health Ministry issued new guidelines for wider use of anti-malarial drugs in mild coronavirus cases.