Brazil virus deaths top 40,000, 1.5m cases in Latin America

Customers at a shopping mall in Sao Paulo, Brazil on June 11, 2020, as the country passed 40,000 deaths from the new coronavirus (AFP Photo/NELSON ALMEIDA)

Rio de Janeiro (AFP) - Brazil has surpassed 40,000 deaths from the novel coronavirus and 800,000 cases, according to the latest figures from the health ministry on Thursday.

The news came as the number of Latin American cases of the virus broke through the 1.5 million barrier, according to a count by AFP based on official figures in the region.

Latin America has also reported more than 73,600 deaths.

Brazil recorded 1,239 deaths over the last 24 hours, taking it to more than 40,900 -- currently the third highest death toll in the world, although it is likely to overtake Britain on Friday.

The South American giant, whose population of 212 million accounts for roughly half of South America, registered more than 30,000 new infections, taking it to 802,800 -- second only to the United States in total cases.

Most experts, though, suspect the true numbers are far greater due to a lack of testing.

Brazil's latest figures came on the same day that the country's two biggest cities -- Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro -- reopened shopping malls.

They have been by far the two worst hit cities in Brazil by the virus.

Sao Paulo now has more than 10,000 deaths while Rio has over 7,300.