Brazil COVID cases halt exponential rise, though "fight" continues - WHO


By Stephanie Nebehay and John Miller

GENEVA, July 17 (Reuters) - Coronavirus infections in Brazil no longer appear to be rising exponentially but the country is "still in the middle of this fight" as new cases and deaths grow by thousands every day, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday.

Brazil, at the epicentre of Latin America's growing epidemic, on Thursday passed the mark of 2 million confirmed COVID-19 cases, amid growing anger over President Jair Bolsonaro's handling of the outbreak.

Only the United States has more infections worldwide.

Mike Ryan, WHO's top emergency expert, said that the number of new cases in Brazil had stabilised at 40,000-45,000 per day, with daily deaths hovering at around 1,300.

"What's not happening yet is that the disease has not turned, and is not heading down the mountain. From that perspective, the numbers have stabilised but what they haven't done is started to fall in a systematic day-by-day way," he told a news conference.

"So Brazil is still very much in the middle of this fight," he said.

The reproduction or "R" - the number of people each infected person goes on to infect - now appeared to be between 0.5 and 1.5 across states in Brazil, Ryan said, down from more than 2 just weeks ago.

"There is an opportunity once those numbers have stabilised to drive transmission downwards. I think that opportunity exists now for Brazil to do that," he said. "But it is going to take a very sustained, concerted action in order for that to occur."

Some 11 percent of all infections in Brazil are among health workers, he said.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay, John Miller and Michael Shields; Writing by Peter Graff and Stephanie Nebehay; editing by Editing by Catherine Evans)


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