Americas the new COVID-19 epicentre: WHO

Brazil now has the highest rate of daily deaths from coronavirus of all countries.
Brazil now has the highest rate of daily deaths from coronavirus of all countries.

The Americas have emerged as the new epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic, the World Health Organization says, as a US study predicts deaths surging in Brazil and other Latin American countries.

"Now is not the time for countries to ease restrictions," WHO director for the Americas Carissa Etienne said via videoconference.

The Americas have registered more than 2.4 million cases of the new coronavirus and more than 143,000 deaths from the resulting COVID-19 respiratory disease.

Latin America has passed Europe and the US in daily infections, Etienne said on Tuesday.

"Our region has become the epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic," she said.

Of concern to WHO officials are accelerating outbreaks in Brazil, Peru, Chile, El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua.

As Brazil's daily death rate became the world's highest on Monday, a University of Washington study warned the country's total death toll could climb five-fold to 125,000 by early August.

The forecast from the university's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) came with a call for lockdowns that Brazil's right-wing president Jair Bolsonaro has resisted.

The current data projects COVID-19 deaths in Peru totalling nearly 20,000 by August, IHME said, indicating demand is likely to outstrip the supply of beds in intensive care units.

The latest IHME model projections see deaths rising to nearly 12,000 in Chile, 7000 in Mexico, 6000 in Ecuador, 5500 in Argentina and to 4500 in Colombia by August.

One country in the region doing relatively well against COVID-19 is Cuba, where the IHME forecasts a death toll of just 82 by August while testing continues to outpace the outbreak.

Australian Associated Press