The healthcare system of Sao Paulo, Brazil's largest city, is in danger of collapsing from the weight of mounting Covid-19 cases, its mayor warned on Sunday (May 17).
Hospital intensive care units have been overrun with patients, Bruno Covas told a press conference.
"We are nearing the most difficult time. Our intensive care beds are at 90 per cent capacity," and the regular hospital beds are at 76 per cent capacity, said Covas.
With the healthcare infrastructure already stretched to the limit, the infection rate continued to run high and new cases continue to rise, he said.
Brazil's confirmed coronavirus cases passed those of Spain and Italy on Saturday, making it the site of the world's fourth-largest outbreak.
As of Sunday, Sao Paulo state, home to 20 million residents, has reported 62,345 cases and 4,782 deaths from Covid-19. Brazil's total caseload is 241,080, with 16,118 deaths.
The city's mayor has suspended one of the region's lockdown measures - banning cars from circulating one day a week - because data showed drivers who couldn't circulate took public transportation, leading to overcrowding in mass transit.
Brazil on Friday lost its second health minister in a month after President Jair Bolsonaro demanded wider use of unproven anti-malarial drugs to fight the coronavirus outbreak, adding to the turmoil over the crisis.
Nelson Teich, an oncologist and healthcare entrepreneur, gave no reason for quitting in brief comments to journalists on Friday.
But he had become out of step with Bolsonaro's push to reopen the economy, expressing surprise at a news conference last Monday when he learned of a presidential decree allowing gyms, beauty parlours and hairdressers to open.
Bolsonaro's handling of the coronavirus has been widely criticised globally as he has shrugged off the severity of the disease and told Brazilians to ignore quarantine restrictions.