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SAO PAULO — A thousand deaths a day.

Since late May, three months after Brazil’s first reported case of the coronavirus, it has recorded more than 1,000 daily deaths on average in a gruesome plateau that has yet to tilt downward.

On Thursday evening, the federal health ministry reported that the country had passed 2 million confirmed cases of virus infections and 76,000 deaths.

Even as cases wane somewhat in the biggest and hardest-hit Brazilian cities, the virus is peaking in new locations across the largest country in Latin America.

Specialists blame denial of the virus’s deadly potential by President Jair Bolsonaro and lack of national coordination combined with scattershot responses by city and state governments, with some reopening earlier than health specialists recommended.

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An interim health minister untrained in the field is presiding over pandemic response. Bolsonaro himself is sick with COVID-19 after repeatedly flouting social-distance recommendations and undermining local leaders’ restrictions on activity.

Brazil’s roughly 7,000 COVID-19 deaths in each of the last seven weeks is equal to several airplanes packed with Brazilians crashing every day, former health minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta told the Associated Press.

“People have become callous,” Mandetta said. “When you say, ‘Yesterday there were 1,300 deaths,’ people say, ‘OK, then it didn’t go up. It was 1,300 people the day before, too.’”

Brazil’s nearly 2 million cases is second only to the United States.

Associated Press

China firm uses workers to ‘pre-test’ COVID-19 vaccine

BEIJING — In the global race to make a virus vaccine, a state-owned Chinese company is boasting that its employees, including top executives, received experimental shots even before the government approved testing in people.

“Giving a helping hand in forging the sword of victory,” reads an online post from SinoPharm with pictures of workers it says helped “pre-test” its vaccine.

Whether it’s viewed as heroic sacrifice or a violation of international ethical norms, the claim underscores the enormous stakes as China competes with US and British companies to be the first with a vaccine — a feat that would be both a scientific and political triumph.

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China has positioned itself to be a strong contender. Eight of the nearly two dozen potential vaccines in various stages of human testing worldwide are from China, the most of any country. And SinoPharm and another Chinese company already have announced they’re entering final testing.

Associated Press

In Israel, government weighs new lockdown amid surge

TEL AVIV — Israel’s prime minister said Thursday he is meeting with senior officials to discuss “interim steps” to try and contain a coronavirus surge without having the country return to a general lockdown as the number of new cases reaches record levels.

Large demonstrations have erupted in recent days over Benjamin Netanyahu’s handling of the pandemic. Adding to his troubles, a new economic bailout plan announced by the premier came under criticism from some of the government’s top economic specialists.

Netanyahu garnered widespread praise after Israel appeared to have largely contained its outbreak by late May, following a two-month lockdown. But within weeks of most restrictions being lifted, the number of new cases began to soar, marking a dramatic turnaround for the leader.

The Health Ministry on Thursday reported 1,898 new cases of the virus. The country has registered more than 44,500 total cases. At least 380 Israelis have died of COVID-19.

Associated Press

Hospital owner arrested over fake virus test certificates

NEW DELHI — Bangladeshi authorities have arrested the owner of a hospital who they said had sold migrant workers thousands of certificates showing a negative result on coronavirus tests, when in fact many tests were never performed.

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Authorities said they caught the hospital owner Wednesday trying to sneak across the border into India disguised as a woman. Police officers said that when they arrested the owner — a man they identified as Mohammad Shahed, with a long criminal record — he was wearing a black burqa that covered him head to toe.

Over the past week and a half, Bangladeshi investigators pieced together what happened: Shahed’s hospital in Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital, had been selling fake coronavirus certificates — thousands of them, at $59 apiece — indicating that a patient had tested negative, authorities said.

There is a huge market for these certificates among migrant workers from Bangladesh hungry to get back to work in Europe. Many Bangladeshi workers have recently flown to Italy, where they said that employers required such certificates before allowing them to go back to work.

New York Times

African nation blasts ‘inequality crisis’ in testing

JOHANNESBURG — Central African Republic’s health minister is blasting the “big inequality crisis” in coronavirus testing as he sees rich countries like Britain conduct scores of thousands of tests daily while his own struggles to obtain supplies for a couple hundred at most.

Pierre Somse told a World Health Organization briefing Thursday that “we are in a scarcity, a misery of tests’’ — a blunt assessment of the scrambling by African nations and rising fears as the pandemic’s first wave hits the continent of 1.3 billion people.

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The minister said his country of more than 4 million people is still waiting for testing supplies ordered via the WHO.

Central African Republic has more than 4,300 confirmed virus cases — a small fraction of the more than 645,000 across Africa — but the true number is unknown.

Confirmed virus cases across Africa have jumped by 23 percent in the past week, and South Africa makes up more than half of them. South Africa on Thursday night surpassed Mexico and Chile with 324,221 cases and now has the world’s sixth-highest reported caseload.

Associated Press

In solemn ceremony, Spain honors victims and heroes

MADRID — Spain paid tribute Thursday to the nation’s victims of the coronavirus and workers who put their lives at risk during the worst of the pandemic with a solemn state ceremony in Madrid.

Relatives of around 100 people who died during the pandemic, representatives of medical personnel, police, and other essential workers joined King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia, government members, and officials from the European Union and the World Health Organization at an esplanade in Madrid’s Royal Palace.

The guests, masked and seated in a socially distanced fashion surrounding a central cauldron, included representatives from a dozen religious organizations and ambassadors. The ceremony was shown live on television and online.

Associated Press