Fears of new coronavirus hotspots as death tolls surge in two countries

As the number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus surpassed three million worldwide, there has been concern over which countries could soon become emerging hotspots for the disease.

While initial hotspots like Italy and Spain are starting to see a significant drop in daily confirmed cases, two countries are quickly heading in the other direction.

Russia has now reported more than 93,500 confirmed cases of COVID-19, surpassing China, where the disease was first detected and Iran, which saw a huge surge in infections before the global pandemic was declared.

A courier of the Yandex.Eda food delivery service riding a bicycle in Bolshoi Moskvoretsky Bridge during the ongoing COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Source: Getty Images

On Tuesday, Russia reported an increase of 6,411 new infections, which is the highest number of confirmed cases the country has seen in a single day so far, according to the Moscow Times.

Russia has now reported 867 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins data, however, there has been speculation the case numbers and the death toll may be much higher.

While the Moscow Times notes that a majority of the cases in Russia are in Moscow, there have been confirmed cases in every one of Russia’s 85 regions.

President Vladimir Putin declared a lockdown on March 30, which has now been extended to May 11.

There have been clusters among health care workers in both Moscow and St Petersburg, 11 doctors and five nurses have died of COVID-19, while at least 200 health care workers have tested positive.

However, Semyon Galperin, head of the Doctors Defence League told the Associated Press that number may be much higher, as hospital officials often hide infections among staff.

“I know of cases of hospital administrations not reporting medics getting infected because it may lead to sealing off the facility for quarantine and halting its operations,” Mr Galperin said.

Putin recently admitted frontline workers are not adequately equipped with PPE, although he did say Russia was producing a lot more than what was being produce prior to the pandemic.

A nurse at an intensive care unit of the COVID-19 treatment facility in Russia, where confirmed and suspected cases are treated. Source: Getty

Brazil tipped to be next virus hotspot

Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro has insisted the coronavirus is merely a “little flu” and a “fantasy” and initially refused to implement restrictions to stop the spread of the outbreak.

On April 28, Brazil reported an increase of more than 6,300 cases in a single day.

There are more than 75,000 confirmed cases in Latin America’s most populous country, however with a population of 211 million, some virus experts have speculated that more than one million people are probably already infected.

So far 5,083 have reportedly died of COVID-19 in Brazil, although the president previously didn’t seem overly concerned about people dying of COVID-19.

“I’m sorry, some people will die, they will die, that’s life,” he said.

Pictured is Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil's president, who has continued to downplay the severity of COVID-19 during the pandemic. Source: Bloomberg

Hospitals are being pushed to the limit and people are dying at home in Brazil, the Associated Press reported.

“We have all the conditions here for the pandemic to become much more serious,” said Paulo Brandão, a virologist at the University of Sao Paulo.

In March, Mr Bolsonaro dismissed concerns for his own health, due to his “history as an athlete”.

“If I were infected by the virus, I wouldn’t need to worry,” he said.

“I wouldn’t feel anything or, if very affected, it would be like a little flu or little cold.”

The Brazilian president fired his health minister on April 17, after the two disagreed on how to contain the novel coronavirus in the country.

Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta’s response to the pandemic was praised by many as he advocated for broad isolation measures enacted by state governors.

Navy soldiers are seen after carrying out a disinfection operation against the novel coronavirus COVID-19 at Tom Jobim Galeao International Airport in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Source: AFP

Mr Bolsanaro has often been referred to as Brazil’s answer to Donald Trump, while Mr Mandetta has been compared to Trump’s own virus expert Dr Anthony Fauci.

Around the time Mr Mandetta was fired, 80 per cent of ICU beds in public hospitals were full in São Paulo and 88 per cent were full in Rio de Janeiro, according to Foreign Policy.

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