SAO PAULO/GENEVA (Reuters) – Brazil still faces a “big challenge” to curb the coronavirus pandemic and should do more to integrate its efforts at different levels of government, a top World Health Organization official said on Monday.
“We would encourage once more that Brazil continues to fight against the disease, that Brazil links the efforts at federal and at state level in a much more systematic way,” said Michael Ryan, head of the WHO emergencies programme.
Brazil should “focus on a comprehensive approach to controlling the disease and doing that in a sustained fashion,” he added.
Brazil, which is suffering the second worst outbreak behind the United States, reported on Monday 24,052 new confirmed cases and 692 additional deaths, taking the overall death toll in the country to 58,314.
President Jair Bolsonaro has been strongly criticized by health experts for this handling of the crisis. Bolsonaro has dismissed the disease as a “little flu” and shown indifference to the rising death count.
The Ministry of Health also said on Monday it had distributed some 4.3 million doses of the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, a drug with little evidence of being effective against COVID-19 but which Bolsonaro has pushed repeatedly.
Earlier on Monday, governor of Brazil’s most populous state, Joao Doria said he expected this week to receive federal regulatory approval to start trials of a potential coronavirus vaccine developed by China’s Sinovac in Sao Paulo.
His statement comes as Brazil’s federal government announced over the weekend that it had signed an agreement to produce another potential vaccine, developed by pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca with researchers at Oxford University.
Doria said Sao Paulo is not trying to compete with the federal government by testing the Chinese vaccine.
“The more tested and approved vaccines we have, the better,” he said.
(Reporting by Eduardo Simoes in Sao Paulo and Emma Farges in Geneva; Editing by Andrea Ricci, Steve Orlofsky and Aurora Ellis)