Brazil has recorded more than 4,000 Covid-related deaths in 24 hours for the first time, as a more contagious variant fuels a surge in cases.
Hospitals are overcrowded, with people dying as they wait for treatment in some cities, and the health system is on the brink of collapse in many areas.
The country’s total death toll is now almost 337,000, second only to the US.
But President Jair Bolsonaro continues to oppose any lockdown measures to curb the outbreak.
He argues that the damage to the economy would be worse than the effects of the virus itself, and has tried to reverse some of the restrictions imposed by local authorities in the courts.
Speaking to supporters outside the presidential residence on Tuesday, he criticised quarantine measures and suggested without evidence that they were linked to obesity and depression. He did not comment on the 4,195 deaths recorded in the previous 24 hours.
To date, Brazil has recorded more than 13 million cases of coronavirus, according to the health ministry. Some 66,570 people died with Covid-19 in March, more than double the previous monthly record.
“Brazil now… is a threat to the entire effort of the international community to control the pandemic,” Dr Miguel Nicolelis, who has been closely tracking cases in the country, said.
“If Brazil is not under control, then the planet is not going to be safe, because we are brewing new variants every week… and they are going to cross borders,” he said.
Far-right president Jair Bolsonaro who has played down the virus, raised doubts about vaccines and defended unproven drugs as treatment – has seen his popularity plummet amid heavy criticism of his handling of the crisis.
He has shifted his tone on immunisations recently, pledging to make 2021 the year of vaccinations. But the country has struggled with the rollout of its programme.
Critics say his government was slow in negotiating supplies. Only around 8% of the population has been given at least one dose, according to the Our World in Data tracker.
Epidemiologist Ethel Maciel said Brazil was in a “dreadful situation”, telling AFP news agency: “At the rate we’re vaccinating… the only way to slow the extremely fast spread of the virus is an effective lockdown for at least 20 days.”