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Brazil on Saturday passed the bleak marker of 150,000 deaths from Covid-19, the health ministry said, as the rate of coronavirus infections continues to slow in the South American country.
The toll comes as Latin America and the Caribbean marked 10 million cases Saturday and more than 360,000 deaths. The region is the worst hit in terms of fatalities, according to official figures. With 212 million inhabitants, Brazil has accumulated the majority of the region's deaths: 150,198 from Covid-19 since the first fatality was recorded in March, and 5,082,637 infections, the ministry said.
It is the second highest national death toll in the world, after the United States, which has recorded more than 213,000 fatalities from Covid-19; and the third highest number of infections after the US and India. In Latin America, Brazil is followed by Colombia, with 894,300 cases and 27,495 deaths; Argentina with 871,455 cases and 23,225 deaths; and Peru with 843,355 cases and 33,158 deaths.
Mexico, although it has fewer cases at 809,751, has suffered a high number of deaths -- the fourth highest in the world -- with the toll currently 83,507.
Brazil's tally has been falling slowly since it plateaued over the summer, which saw an average of around 1,000 deaths per day for two months. But experts say the fall is slow compared to countries in Europe and Asia, suggesting Brazil may still be in its first wave of the virus.
"It's like coming down from the Himalayas to the Alps, that is, you're still on a mountain," Jose David Urbaez, a researcher with the Brazilian Society of Infectology, told AFP.
Even so, with more therapeutics available and awareness growing, health experts say the system is coping far better than it had. "I don't know if the worst is over because we don't know what's coming, but we've certainly had worse moments than this," Jaques Sztajnbok, head of the intensive care unit at the Emilio Ribas Institute in Sao Paulo, the state with the highest number of deaths from Covid, told AFP.
From the beginning, Brazil has faced the pandemic with its leaders divided.
President Jair Bolsonaro has downplayed the disease from the start, despite contracting it himself, and insists on a return to normalcy to prevent economic collapse.
In contrast, state governors and mayors applied social distancing measures at the start of the crisis -- though with the pandemic hitting the economy they have begun loosening the restrictions in recent months. "I think we are becoming numb with this situation. We hear so many bad things that we end up getting used to it," student Caio Gomes told AFP during a walk on Rio de Janeiro's Copacabana beach.
Since it emerged in China late last year, the virus has killed more than one million worldwide, infected more than 36 million and forced millions more out of work as the pandemic batters the global economy.