New York/Brasilia, May 23 : South America has become the new epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
With a total of 330,098 COVID-19 cases, Brazil has since surpassed Russia as the country with the second-highest number of infections after the US.
The rest of the continent has not fared much better. Peru has 108,769 cases, Chile 61,857, Ecuador 35,828 and Colombia 18,330 positive cases.
The rest of the continent is suffering in smaller numbers, but the rates of increase are not showing signs of flattening just yet.
"We've seen many South American countries with increasing numbers of cases and clearly there's a concern across many of those countries, but certainly the most affected is Brazil at this point," Mike Ryan, executive director of WHO's emergencies programme, said at a news briefing on Friday.
"In a sense, South America has become the new epicentre for the disease," he added.
Brazil reached the grim milestone after it reported 20,803 new cases on Friday, while fatalities climbed by 1,001 to 21,048.
In Brazil, Sao Paulo state, home to 46 million of the country's 210 million people, accounts for 76,871 cases and nearly 30 per cent of the deaths.
Next comes Rio de Janeiro, whose capital city is experiencing a coronavirus mortality rate of 12.7 per cent, almost double the national rate of 6.5 per cent, according to the IBGE statistics agency.
The country is now has its third health minister in a month.
Apart from promoting the use of chloroquine, the Brazilian government continues with lack of a clearly enunciated strategy to combat coronavirus, the peak of which in Brazil is expected in July.
President Jair Bolsonaro, meanwhile, continues to downplay the seriousness of the disease and is exerting pressure to reopen the country and resume economic activities of all sorts, this at a time when the country may be en route to surpassing the US as the world epicentre of the pandemic.