Issued on: 22/05/2020 – 06:19Modified: 22/05/2020 – 06:23
The novel coronavirus death toll in Brazil surpassed 20,000 on Thursday, after a record number of fatalities in a 24-hour period, the health ministry said.
The country is the epicenter of the outbreak in Latin America, and its highest one-day toll of 1,188 pushed the overall death tally to 20,047.
Brazil has now recorded more than 310,000 cases, with experts saying a lack of testing means the real figures are probably much higher.
The death toll — the sixth highest in the world — has doubled in just 11 days, according to ministry data.
Despite the worrying spread of the disease, far-right President Jair Bolsonaro on Thursday continued his calls to scrap lockdown measures to revive a flagging economy.
But almost all of the country's 27 states are under some sort of lockdown order, though Brazilians are wearying of the restrictions in place since the end of March.
Sao Paulo state, the economic and cultural capital of Brazil, is by far the most affected, with about a quarter of the country's deaths and infections.
Sao Paulo Governor Joao Doria, who has clashed often with the president over containment measures, has said the country has to fight both coronavirus and "Bolsonarovirus."
But Bolsonaro and the governors sounded a conciliatory note Thursday as they held a video conference on coordinating the response to the pandemic.
The president called it "a great victory for the Brazilian people."
Doria, for his part, urged unity.
"Brazil needs to be united. If we're at war, we all face defeat. Let's go together in peace, Mr President, together for Brazil," he said.
Hospitals in Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and various states across northern and northeastern Brazil are near collapse.
The authorities have been racing to set up field hospitals with more beds, but are struggling to build them fast enough.
Bolsonaro, who has famously compared the virus to a "little flu," appears to have pinned his hopes on the anti-malaria drugs chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine to stop it.
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Dozens killed in suspected jihadist attack in Niger
Dozens of people were killed in an attack in Niger on Saturday, in a suspected jihadist attack.
The attack took place around 12:00 CET in the Tchomo-Bangou village in Tillabéri, a western region bordering Mali.
“The assailants surrounded the village and killed up to 50 people,” a local radio journalist said anonymously. “The wounded have been evacuated to the hospital in Ouallam.”
It came on the day provisional results for the first round of the presidential election, held on December 27, were released.
Mohamed Bazoum, the candidate for the ruling Party for Democracy and Socialism (PNDS) and a former interior minister, is in the lead with 39.3 per cent of the votes. Bazoum has vowed to strengthen the country’s fight against Islamist groups.
The second round of the election is to be held on February 21.
Niger has been a target for jihadist attacks for years, particularly in the western and southeastern parts of the country.
On December 21, six days before the presidential poll, seven soldiers were killed in Tillabéri. In May 2020, twenty people, including children, were also killed in two of the region’s villages.
Niger votes in presidential and legislative elections
People in Niger began voting in the country’s presidential and parliamentary elections on Sunday.
Mohamed Bazoum, the right-hand man of outgoing President Mahamadou Issoufou is the favourite to win.
The sixty-year-old former interior minister is aiming for outright victory in the first round — something that no candidate has done before.
He’s focussing on security and education.
Over 7 million people are eligible to vote. But some voters, like Gambina Moumouni, simply want a president they can trust.
“We pray to Allah to choose us the president who has the most mercy for the people, a president who will not betray the country and who will not betray the trust of the people, that is our wish. It is also our wish that Allah may help to make the poor, the peasants, the (cattle) breeders happy.
Thirty candidates are standing including two former presidents and two former prime ministers, but according to seasoned observers in the region, the poll is arousing little enthusiasm among the population.
Niger is the world’s poorest according to the UN’s Human Development Index and also one of those hardest hit by climate change.
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