Brazil tops 30,000 coronavirus deaths: official

Brazil's health crisis has merged with a political crisis, as far-right President Jair Bolsonaro has openly clashed with local authorities that insist on lockdown measures

Brazil surpassed 30,000 deaths from the coronavirus outbreak on Tuesday as the disease continued to rip through South America's worst-hit country.

Figures released by the health ministry showed a new record 1,262 deaths in the previous 24 hours, as well as 28,936 new infections.

The figures come as some Brazilian states began to emerge from weeks of economically-stifling quarantine measures despite warnings from the WHO and epidemiologists.

The overall number of confirmed cases -- 555,383 -- makes Brazil the second most affected country after the United States.

The official COVID-19 death toll of 31,199 released Tuesday is the fourth-highest in the world, after the US, Britain and Italy.

Experts estimate the real number of infections could be up to 15 times higher than official figures, given relatively little testing across the vast country of 210 million.

In a worrying sign, Sao Paulo state on Tuesday recorded its highest daily figures for both deaths and infections, on the day when cities across the state began reopening shopping malls and offices.

Sao Paulo now has a total of nearly 120,000 cases with almost 8,000 deaths.

In Sao Paulo itself, Mayor Bruno Covas has put back reopening non-essential businesses until after June 15.

The other worst affected state, Rio de Janeiro, also began emerging from quarantine measures on Tuesday with beaches and businesses re-opening.

"In the current situation, relaxing the measures is adding gasoline to the fire," Rafael Galliez, an infections expert at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, told AFP.

The regional office of the World Health Organization warned Brazil on Tuesday against reopening "too quickly as there is a risk of a resurgence of COVID-19."

The health ministry said there was "no way to specify when the peak of deaths will occur" due to the country's size and geographic diversity.

Brazil's health crisis has merged with a political crisis, as far-right President Jair Bolsonaro has openly clashed with local authorities that insist on lockdown measures.