São Paulo mayor warns city’s health system close to collapse under COVID-19 strain

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The mayor of Brazil‘s largest city, São Paulo, has said its health system could collapse as demand grows for emergency beds to deal with coronavirus cases. Bruno Covas is quoted in a BBC News report as saying the city’s public hospitals had reached 90% capacity and could run out of space in two weeks. He accused those who flouted lockdown rules of playing “Russian roulette” with people’s lives.

São Paulo is one of the country’s worst-hit regions, with almost 3,000 deaths so far.

The report says Brazil’s far-right president Jair Bolsonaro has been strongly criticised both at home and abroad for his handling of the country’s escalating coronavirus crisis.

On Saturday, Brazil overtook Spain and Italy to become the country with the fourth-largest number of infections. The health ministry reported 7,938 new cases in the past 24 hours, taking the total above 241,000. Only the US, Russia and the UK have higher numbers.

The death toll in Brazil over 24 hours was 485, meaning that the total number of deaths is 16,118 – the world’s sixth-highest figure. But, the report says, health experts have warned that the real number of confirmed infections in the country may be far higher than the official records, due to a lack of testing.

Covas said he was now in talks with the state governor over introducing a strict lockdown to try to prevent hospitals being overwhelmed. The governor of São Paulo state controls the police, and his support will be essential if a lockdown is to succeed.

Covas called on people to stay at home, saying São Paulo needed to “slow down even more” to reduce contagion. São Paulo has a population of about 12m, and official figures show most residents are ignoring social distancing rules.

Full BBC News report

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