BRASILIA (REUTERS) - Brazil's Covid-19 death toll passed 200,000 on Thursday (Jan 7), the health ministry said, as daily new cases accelerated to a record of 87,843 after year-end holidays in the country with the world's second-deadliest outbreak.
Experts warn Brazil has still not seen the height of cases resulting from people celebrating Christmas and New Year's with friends and family.
Others, including President Jair Bolsonaro, booked their regular beach vacations at the height of summer in the southern hemisphere.
Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello said on Thursday the country is already in a second wave.
"It's a shame what happened in the summer. What we expect is that after Jan 15, we will unfortunately face a critical state again in hospitals," said Dr Rafael Deucher, a doctor in Parana state, where 80 per cent of public intensive care beds occupied.
Immunologists say various factors are likely to exacerbate the second wave. Brazil is still at least three weeks away from beginning its vaccine campaign, according to the government, which has been widely criticized for not moving as quickly as other countries.
"People are tired and are no longer adhering to preventive measures due to psychological strain, but also due to the lack of a unified political discourse," said Dr Alexandre Naime, head of the department of infectious diseases at Universidade Estadual Paulista's faculty of medicine.
"There are many people who are against science and public health, against the mask, and in favour of big gatherings."
Brazil registered a 1,524 additional deaths over the past 24 hours, according to health ministry data. Since the outbreak began, nearly 8 million people have been infected, while 200,498 have died.
Meanwhile, Mexico saw one of its highest daily coronavirus numbers on Thursday.
The health ministry reported 13,734 new confirmed coronavirus cases and 1,044 more deaths, bringing its total to 1,493,569 infections and 131,031 deaths.
But the ministry has said the real number of infected people and deaths is likely significantly higher.