MEXICO CITY – Brazil and Mexico reported a record one-day hike in new cases of coronavirus on Thursday, as leaders of both countries intensified their efforts to reopen their economies, while seemingly accelerating the spread of the virus in Latin America is.
Brazilian right-wing populist President Jair Bolsonaro and the left-wing leader of Mexico, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, have regularly swam against the tide of scientific opinion since the outbreak of the crisis, first by mitigating the threat of the virus and more recently by focusing on reopening their economies despite rising cases.
The increase in virus cases in chunks of Latin America comes as other regions, especially Europe and China, are seeing a downward trajectory of new infections.
Brazil, the hardest-hit country in Latin America, recorded a record 13,944 new cases daily, bringing the total to 202,918 confirmed cases of the virus and 13,933 deaths since the outbreak, according to data from the Department of Health.
Mexico, the second most affected country in the region, reported 2,409 new infections on Thursday to bring the total number of confirmed coronavirus cases to 42,595. Another 257 coronavirus deaths brought the total fatalities to 4,477.
“We are in the most difficult moment of the first wave of the epidemic,” Mexican Coronavirus Tsar Hugo Lopez-Gatell said Thursday.
He said Mexico was at the peak of its pandemic cycle and “could not relax the measures” and warned that the country should embrace a “new normality” amid threats of resurgence of the virus. On Thursday, government data showed that more than half of the capital’s hospitals were saturated with coronavirus patients.
Lopez-Gatell’s comments made intensive preparations to ease restrictions and reopen Mexico’s economy, particularly the auto industry and factories near the U.S. border, to make supply chains vital to U.S. manufacturing companies.
Similar efforts to kick-start the economy accelerated in Brazil as Bolsonaro urged business leaders to push for lockdown orders in Sao Paulo, the financial center.
In a video conference, Bolsonaro told a meeting of company leaders to “ play tough ” with Sao Paulo Governor Joao Doria, who issued social distance regulations, saying he will not comply with Bolsonaro’s latest decree to reopen gyms and beauty salons.
“One man decides the future of Sao Paulo,” said Bolsonaro, referring to Doria. “He decides on the future of the Brazilian economy. With all due respect, you have to call the governor and play tough – play tough – because it’s a serious problem, it’s war. Brazil is at stake, ”said the President.
In Sao Paulo, Brazil’s most populous state and home to a third of its economic output, hospitals have gone to extremes as it records the worst outbreak in the country.
In Nicaragua, where left-wing President Daniel Ortega was criticized for failing to take closure measures, the United States told Thursday its US citizens and their “families to take shelter”.
“US citizens who stay in Nicaragua must ensure that they have enough food, water, and medicine to provide shelter for at least two weeks,” the embassy said in a statement.
Nicaragua has 25 reported cases, but doctors in inundated hospitals have told Reuters that the number of cases is significantly higher.