BRASILIA - Brazil registered a record 2,286 deaths from COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, the health ministry said Wednesday, as a worrying surge pushed the figure past 2,000 for the first time.
The South American country of 212 million people, which has the world's second-highest death toll in the pandemic, is struggling to deal with a crush of cases that has pushed many hospitals close to the breaking point.
The new daily record brought the number of people who have died of COVID-19 in Brazil to 270,656, second only to the United States.
The country also registered its third-highest number of coronavirus infections Wednesday, with nearly 80,000.
Health experts say the surge is fueled by new, more contagious variants of the virus, including one known as P1 believed to have emerged in Brazil, in or around the Amazon rainforest city of Manaus.
"We're at the worst moment of the pandemic in Brazil. The transmission rate with these new variants is making the epidemic even worse," said Margareth Dalcolmo, a doctor and researcher at leading public health center Fiocruz.
"2021 is still going to be a very hard year," she told AFP.
Brazil has struggled to secure enough vaccines for its population, adding to criticism of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro's hands-off handling of the health crisis.
© Agence France-Presse