Global report: Brazil’s deadliest day as Trump calls US cases a ‘badge of honour’

Brazil has seen its most deadly day since the coronavirus outbreak began, prompting Donald Trump to consider a ban on travel to the US from Brazil as he declared the huge number of US cases of coronavirus was “a badge of honour”.

After a cabinet meeting on Tuesday at the White House, Trump said: “I don’t want people coming over here and infecting our people. I don’t want people over there sick either,” in relation to Brazil.

When asked if about the possibility of a travel ban, the president said he was considering it and went on to say he saw the large number of US cases as a “badge of honour”.

“You know when you say that we lead in cases, that’s because we have more testing than anybody else,” he said. “It’s a great tribute to the testing and all of the work that a lot of professionals have done.”

The US president has previously claimed “incredible” victories in testing despite criticism over his administration’s repeated failures.

The US has by far the highest number of cases in the world, at more than 1.5 million with nearly 92,000 deaths, followed by Russia and then Brazil, according to the Johns Hopkins university tracker.

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The death toll in Brazil reached a total of 17,971 on Tuesday, after a record 1,179 people died in one day. The highest daily toll before Tuesday had been 881 deaths, on 12 May.

The grim new toll came amid warnings that several major cities in Latin America were in danger of being overwhelmed by the virus. More than 85% of intensive care beds are full in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo.

Brazil overtook Britain on Monday to become the country with the third-highest number of confirmed infections. It has reported a total of 271,628 confirmed cases after a record rise of 17,408 on Tuesday.

President Jair Bolsonaro, an ideological ally of Trump, has been criticised for his handling of the outbreak, which has included opposition to restrictions on movement he sees as too damaging to the economy.

Pan American Health Organization officials said in a virtual briefing they were concerned about the virus’s spread in the tri-border area of the Amazon between Colombia, Peru and Brazil. They urged special measures to protect vulnerable populations among the indigenous, poor and racial minorities.

The World Bank on Tuesday warned that 60 million people could fall into extreme poverty as a result of the pandemic and said it anticipated a 5% contraction in the world economy this year, with severe effects on the poorest countries.

The warning came as concerns about the impact of the virus in Latin America grew. In some cities, doctors said patients were dying because of a lack of ventilators or because they couldn’t get to a hospital fast enough.

More than 90% of intensive care beds were full last week in Chile’s capital, Santiago, whose main cemetery dug 1,000 emergency graves to prepare for a wave of deaths.

In Lima, Peru, patients took up 80% of intensive care beds as of Friday. Peru has the world’s 12th-highest number of confirmed cases, with more than 90,000. “We’re in bad shape,” said Pilar Mazzetti, head of the Peruvian government’s Covid-19 taskforce. “This is war.”

With intensive care units swamped, officials in Peru and Chile plan to move patients from Lima and Santiago to hospitals in smaller cities that are less busy, running the risk of spreading the disease further.

In other coronavirus developments:

  • Worldwide, cases neared 4.9 million, with more than 323,000 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker.

  • UN secretary general Antonio Guterres praised countries in Africa for stemming the spread of the virus through “very brave prevention measures”, saying the developed world could learn lessons from it. There have been fewer than 3,000 Covid-19 deaths from 88,000 cases of the disease registered throughout the continent, relatively low numbers compared with more than 320,000 deaths worldwide.

  • New Zealand’s prime minister urged employers to consider flexible working options, including a four-day week, as part of efforts to rebuild the economy after the pandemic.

  • High schools in South Korea opened for the first time this year. Students and teachers must wear masks except at mealtimes, and are asked to wipe down their desks. Windows will be open to improve air-flow, and desks spaced a metre apart.

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