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Coronavirus cases surge in Latin America with a peak of infections weeks away in many countries

Brazil has become the second country in the world to confirm more than one million cases of Covid-19, as the disease continues to spread.

A Covid-19 patient is treated in a Santiago, Chile hospital.

The health ministry also posted a record number of new cases in the past 24 hours — more than 54,000. In addition, there were more than 1,200 deaths for the fourth consecutive day, taking the total to nearly 49,000.

A lack of testing suggests the true figures are considerably higher and experts say the outbreak is weeks away from its peak.

The new figure was revealed hours after the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that the pandemic was entering a “new and dangerous” phase in the country, with its director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warning that cases were rising at the same time as people are growing weary of lockdowns and governments are seeking to restart their economies.

Latin America is among the areas currently seeing a spike in infections. There are major outbreaks in a number of countries, including Chile and Peru, while Mexico became the seventh country to officially surpass 20,000 virus-related deaths on Friday.

But only the U.S. has seen more infections than Brazil, where President Jair Bolsonaro has been heavily criticized for his response to the crisis. He has repeatedly clashed with state governors and mayors who have adopted strict restrictions to curb the spread of the virus, shutting down major cities.

Bolsonaro argues that the economic impact of the measures will be much bigger than the virus itself, a position shared by many. But his overall approach to the crisis has led to the resignation of two doctors as health minister.

In Peru, the death toll topped 8,000 deaths on Sunday, only hours after the reopening of some businesses, including shopping malls. The number of infections rose to 254,936, after another 3,598 cases were added.

Although Chile’s official death count stands at just over 5,000 health officials say they will soon add thousands more to the total that should have been included. On Sunday, total cases in the country stood at 242,000.

WHO says that Colombia and Argentina appear poised to be the latest Covid-19 hotspots in Latin America, as major cities in both countries are experiencing a rapid rise in number of cases.

Although officials in Ecuador believe the worst of the Covid-19 outbreak is over, some communities continue to see increases in cases and deaths. The first country in Latin America with major outbreak, the virus is believed to have caused thousands of deaths in the port city of Guayaquil in early May. As of Sunday, certified infections totaled 50,640 in Ecuador with 4,200 deaths.