Par Jake Spring et Pedro Fonseca
BRAZIL (Reuters) – Brazil on Wednesday registered a record number of new cases of the new coronavirus, surpassing France’s record to become the sixth most affected country, as the disease sends the economy into its worst year since at least 1900 .
The government has confirmed 11,385 new cases in the past 24 hours, bringing the total to 188,974 cases of coronavirus since the start of the epidemic. On Wednesday morning, France revised its total number of confirmed and suspect cases down 0.3% to 177,700.
The pandemic has hit Brazil’s economy as residents take shelter in their homes, and many local and state governments have ordered most businesses to close to slow the spread of the virus.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has locked the horns with state governors for weeks during the closings, saying they are causing more damage by losing jobs than the disease itself.
The economy ministry predicted on Wednesday that Brazil’s economy would contract by 4.7% in 2020, the largest annual decline since the records started more than a century ago.
The ministry estimates that each additional week of quarantine measures costs the economy 20 billion reais ($ 3.40 billion).
“It will reach the point where hungry people take to the streets,” Bolsonaro said Wednesday.
He stepped up the fight this week by declaring gymnasiums and beauty salons to be “essential” services that can open, threatening legal action against local governments that fail to comply.
Sao Paulo, Brazil’s most populous state with the highest number of virus infections, will not comply with Bolsonaro’s decree, Governor Joao Doria said on Wednesday, echoing comments from at least 10 other governors.
The five countries that have had more infections than Brazil are the United States, Spain, Russia, the United Kingdom and Italy.
Brazil recorded Wednesday 749 new deaths due to the coronavirus, bringing the global balance to 13,149.
(Report by Jake Spring in Brasilia and Pedro Fonseca in Rio de Janeiro; additional reports by Marcela Ayers, Lisandra Paraguassu and Jamie McGeever in Brasilia and Eduardo Simoes in Sao Paulo; edited by Christian Plumb and Sam Holmes)