Brazil's coronavirus death toll hits 41,828 to overtake UK as second worst-hit country

Activists in costume dig symbolic graves on Copacabana beach as a protest against the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic Credit: Leo Correa/AP

Brazil has overtaken the UK’s coronavirus death toll to become the second worst country hit by the disease.

Officials in Brazil reported 909 deaths on Friday in the hardest-hit Latin American nation with more than 828,000 confirmed virus cases.

It takes the total death toll in Brazil to 41,828, which is marginally above the current UK total of 41,481.

The country has the second-highest death toll from Covid-19 behind the US, figures from Johns Hopkins University suggest.

Brazil’s biggest city, Sao Paulo, is to free up space at its graveyards during the pandemic by digging up the bones of people buried in the past and storing their bagged remains in large metal containers.

The remains of people who died at least three years ago will be exhumed and put in numbered bags, then stored temporarily in 12 storage containers the city’s funeral service has purchased.

The containers will be delivered to several cemeteries within 15 days, a statement said.

Activists dig symbolic graves on Copacabana beach as a protest against the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic Credit: Leo Correa/AP

Sao Paulo is one of the Covid-19 hot spots, with 5,480 deaths as of Thursday in the city of 12 million people.

Health experts are worried about a new surge now that a decline in intensive care bed occupancy to about 70% prompted Mayor Bruno Covas to authorise a partial reopening of business this week.

The peak of infection is predicted to hit Brazil in August, having spread from the big cities where it first appeared into the mainland.

Dr Michael Ryan, the World Health Organisation’s emergencies chief, said: “Overall the health system is still coping in Brazil, although, having said that, with the sustained number of severe cases that remains to be seen.

Cemetery workers exhume remains buried three years ago at the Vila Formosa Credit: Andre Penner/AP

“Clearly the health system in Brazil across the country needs significant support in order to sustain its effort in this regard. But the data we have at the moment supports a system under pressure, but a system still coping with the number of severe cases.”Meanwhile, Beijing authorities have closed the city’s largest wholesale food market after the discovery of seven cases in the previous two days.

The Xinfadi market, which has 4,000 tenants, will be disinfected after workers tested positive and the virus was found in the environment, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

A medical vehicle pulls away from the entrance to a building holding a beef and lamb market in Beijing that was closed by authorities Credit: Mark Schiefelbein/AP

China’s National Health Commission said six new cases were confirmed in Beijing on Friday, and another case was reported on Thursday. They are the first locally transmitted cases in the Chinese capital in more than 50 days.

Attention focused on the market after the discovery of the first three cases. Two of the infected people had been to the market, and the third worked with one of them at a meat research institute, according to Chinese media reports.

City officials said all the workers were being tested for coronavirus. They also ordered the testing of food and environmental samples from all the city’s wholesale food markets.

Coronavirus: Everything you need to know