The World Health Organization declared Latin America "a new epicenter" of the coronavirus pandemic as President Donald Trump ramped up pressure on state and local governments to speed up the reopening of the reeling American economy. Surges in infections across much of Central and South America have driven the global case count to nearly 5.2 million, with more than 337,000 deaths, even as hard-hit Europe and the United States cautiously move into a recovery phase.
The death toll in Brazil has soared past 20,000, and with 310,000 reported cases, it has the third-biggest caseload in the world behind the United States and Russia.
"In a sense, South America has become a new epicenter for the disease," WHO emergencies director Mike Ryan said on Friday. "We’ve seen many South American countries with increasing numbers of cases… but certainly the most affected is Brazil at this point."
Unlike in Europe and the United States, where the elderly were hardest-hit, a significant number of deaths in Brazil have been younger people, who are often driven by poverty to work despite the threat of infection. "Since Brazil has a younger population, it’s normal for the number of cases to be higher among under-60s," said Mauro Sanchez, an epidemiologist at the University of Brasilia. "What’s perverse is that a lot of the people who are exposing themselves to the virus are doing it because they don’t have a choice."
As the toll mounted, grave-diggers at a cemetery outside Sao Paulo scrambled to keep up.
"We’ve been working 12-hour days, burying them one after the other," said one worker at Vila Formosa, wearing a white protective suit, mask and face […]