Brazil may have 12 times more cases of the new coronavirus than those officially reported by the government, with too little testing and long waits to confirm the results.
Researchers at a consortium of Brazilian universities and institutes examined the ratio of cases resulting in deaths up to April 10 and compared it with data on the expected death rate from the World Health Organisation.
The much higher-than-expected death rate in Brazil indicates there are many more cases of the virus than are being counted, with the study estimating only 8 per cent of cases are being officially reported.
The government has focused on testing serious cases rather than all suspected cases, according to the consortium, known as the Centre for Health Operations and Intelligence. The centre and medical professionals have also complained of long wait times to get test results.
Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta has said that it is difficult to distribute tests in Brazil because of the size of the country but acknowledges that testing needs to improve.
Officially, Brazil’s coronavirus death toll rose to 1,328 on Monday, while the number of confirmed cases hit 23,430, according to health ministry data.
As of last Thursday, Brazil had had around 127,000 suspected cases and carried out just short of 63,000 tests, ministry figures indicate.
“The high degree of under-notification could give a false impression about control of the disease, and consequently, could lead to a decline in containment measures,” the centre said.
The outbreak has stoked tension in the Brazilian government, with right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro downplaying risks of the virus and urging the country to return to normal, while his health minister, state governors and local officials urge stricter measures.
Originally published as Brazil virus cases may be ’12 times’ count