Brazil has reported a 24-hour tally of Covid-19 deaths exceeding 4,000 for the first time, becoming the third nation to go above that daily threshold.
Many governors, mayors and judges are reopening parts of the economy despite lingering chaos in overcrowded hospitals and a collapsed health system in several parts of the country.
Brazil’s health ministry on Tuesday said 4,195 deaths were counted in the previous 24 hours, with the nation’s pandemic toll quickly approaching 340,000, the second highest in the world.
Only the United States and Peru have had daily death tolls higher than 4,000.
Health officials said the figure was partly due to the Easter holiday, which delayed the count.
Local authorities nationwide argue that numbers of cases and people in hospital are trending downward after a week of a partial shutdown.
Miguel Lago, executive director of Brazil’s Institute for Health Policy Studies, which advises public health officials, said reopening is a mistake that he fears will bring even higher death numbers, though he thinks it unlikely to be reversed.
“The fact is the anti-lockdown narrative of President Jair Bolsonaro has won,” Mr Lago told The Associated Press.
“Mayors and governors are politically prohibited from beefing up social distancing policies because they know supporters of the president, including business leaders, will sabotage it.”
Mr Bolsonaro, who has long downplayed the risks of the coronavirus, remains fully against lockdowns as damaging to the economy.
Meanwhile India has hit another new peak with 115,736 coronavirus cases reported in the past 24 hours.
New Delhi, Mumbai and dozens of other cities are imposing curfews to try to slow the soaring infections.
The latest rise reported on Wednesday overtook Sunday’s record of 103,844 infections.
Deaths rose by 630 in the past 24 hours, the highest since November, raising the total death toll in the country to 166,177 since the pandemic began.
Experts say the surge is blamed in part on growing disregard for social distancing and mask-wearing in public spaces.
The latest surge in infections is worse than last year’s peak of more than 97,000 a day in mid-September.
India now has a seven-day rolling average of more than 78,000 cases per day and has reported 12.8 million virus cases since the pandemic began, the highest after the United States and Brazil.
South Korea has reported its highest daily jump in new coronavirus cases in nearly three months as concerns grow about another huge wave as the country wrestles with a slow vaccine rollout.
The 668 infections reported Wednesday were the most since January 8 when officials reported 674 new cases.
Since the pandemic began, South Korea has had 106,898 confirmed cases, with 1,756 deaths related to Covid-19.
South Korea had been struggling to keep transmissions under control following a major winter surge that erased months of hard-won gains.
There is also concern over the pace of the country’s vaccine rollout that is slower than many other developed economies, after officials insisted on a wait-and-see approach because the outbreak was not as dire as in the US and Europe.
However North Korea continues to claim a perfect record in keeping out the coronavirus in its latest report to the World Health Organisation.
In an email to The Associated Press on Wednesday, the WHO says North Korea has reported that it tested 23,121 people for the coronavirus as of April 1 and that all results were negative.
Outsiders have expressed doubt about whether North Korea has escaped the pandemic entirely, given its poor health infrastructure and a porous border it shares with China, its economic lifeline.