Women buy vegetables through a protective plastic, due to COVID-19, in a street market in Barranco neighborhood, in Lima, Peru, on Saturday. (Photo: AP)
MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay－Latin America and the Caribbean surpassed 2 million coronavirus cases on Saturday, according to a Agence France-Presse tally based on official figures.
The virus was accelerating its spread in the region, with 2,007,621 confirmed cases.
The World Health Organization says that Latin America now accounts for half the number of new cases in the world.
Brazil had 1,067,579 confirmed cases and 49,976 deaths from the disease by Saturday. The country confirmed its first case of the novel coronavirus on Feb 26 and passed 1 million cases on Friday.
Jose David Urbaez Brito, scientific director at the Federal District branch of the Brazilian Society of Infectious Diseases, said that it is still too early to say whether Brazil has reached the peak of contagion. With economies reopening in various states, there could be a further increase in cases.
"Activities are returning with a very significant circulation of people, and the virus continues to spread. We are still far from the peak, because the peak depends a lot on measures to stop the spread and reduce cases and deaths. That depends on taking more restrictive, more intense social isolation measures."
Starting from April, the government granted emergency aid of 600 reais ($13) a month for three months to informal workers, who find it difficult to take necessary preventive measures.
In recent weeks a number of Brazilian states have authorized the reopening of economic activity.
The priority should be to create a structure to carry out massive testing, and to mandate further social distancing and quarantine measures, Brito said.
Schedule pushed back
Mexico is the second hardest-hit country in the region, with more than 170,000 cases and 20,349 deaths by Saturday.
Mexico City had been due to reopen markets, restaurants and other businesses on Monday, but with the virus continuing to spread, authorities pushed the schedule back.
Chile's reported coronavirus death toll nearly doubled on Saturday to 7,144 under a new tallying method that includes probable deaths from the disease.
The toll rose by 3,069, Rafael Araos of the health ministry said as he explained the new government counting methodology.
Peru reported that it had more than 250,000 cases, with 7,861 deaths. The country registered 201 deaths on Saturday, the second-highest daily toll since the health emergency was declared in March.
Iran's confirmed cases exceeded 202,000 on Saturday, while Turkey's tally surpassed 186,000.
Iran, which has re-emerged as the hardest-hit country by the pandemic in the Middle East, reported 2,322 new infections, bringing the total number to 202,584.
The pandemic had claimed 9,507 lives in the country, 115 more than in the previous 24 hours. A total of 161,384 patients had recovered, and 2,842 were said to be in critical condition.
Turkey reported 1,248 new cases, taking its total to 186,493, the Health Minister, Fahrettin Koca, said.
The death toll in Turkey rose to 4,927, he said, and the number of recoveries rose to 158,828.
More than 1.5 million secondary school students in the country took a high school entrance exam on Saturday amid a nationwide partial lockdown against the COVID-19 pandemic.