BRAZIL's leaders have claimed the country's coronavirus outbreak is "comfortable" despite thousands dying every day.
The Amazon variant of the virus is killing 100 people an hour in Brazil as infections skyrocket and hospitals face collapse.
The country has become the epicentre of the pandemic, with by far the highest current daily death toll anywhere in the world.
But Ricardo Barros, President Jair Bolsonaro's leader in the lower house, said the situation wasn't "critical".
"Our situation isn’t all that critical. Compared to other countries, it’s actually quite comfortable," he said, according to The Guardian.
Brazil had its second deadliest day on Thursday, with 2,724 lives lost to coronavirus – just two days after a record 2,841 coronavirus deaths.
The record number of fatalities comes as hospitals are on the brink of collapse as the mutant P1 strain causes a second wave much deadlier than the first.
Danilo Maksud, a cardiologist from São Paulo, said ICUs in the state are 89 percent full with more than 11,000 Covid patients.
"It’s not chaos – we’re well beyond chaos," he told The Guardian.
Speaking on Thursday, Bolsonaro, who has downplayed the gravity of the virus and opposed lockdowns to stop its spread despite the worsening pandemic, said 200 people in the presidential palace have had the deadly bug.
An army sergeant who worked in his office died from the illness.
And a third senator has also died of Covid, raising questions around precautions taken in the country's Congress.
As many as one-in-three lawmakers have been infected with the virus.
It comes after a Brazilian doctor compared fighting the country's Covid explosion to "flogging a dead horse".
Infectious disease specialist André Machado, from the Our Lady of the Conception hospital in Porto Alegre, said his team is struggling to keep up with the tripling admissions, The Guardian reports.
He said: "We’re trying to help people but this disease is much faster and more aggressive than the tactics we’ve been using.
"It’s like we’re flogging a dead horse. This disease is going to kill many more people in Brazil."
Machado blames Bolsonaro and young people for failing to social distance. but above all the P1 variant of the virus – thought to be much more contagious.
He said: "This isn’t just theoretical. It’s something we’re seeing in practice."
Frontline health workers in the coastal city of Recife are seeing intensive care units and cemeteries fill up like never before.
Infectologist Eduarda Santa Rosa Barata, 31, who works in three ICUs in the north-eastern capital of Pernambuco state, said: "It feels like we’re putting a Band-Aid on a bullet wound.
"We’re engaged in damage reduction. You open new beds and they fill up immediately."
ICUs are 96 percent full in the state of Pernambuco, according to reports.
And critical care units in the state of Rio Grande do Sul state are 100 percent full.
P1 has been detected in at least 27 other countries including the UK and US, although only in small numbers so far.
It emerged in Manaus in December, and swept through the Amazon jungle city – and a study showed it can reinfect 60 per cent of sufferers by dodging the body's immune response.
This week it was reported the health system in São Paulo could collapse if Covid hospitalisations continue to soar at the current rate.
São Paulo governor João Doria said: "This new strain of the virus is very aggressive and very dangerous."
But Bolsonaro told people to "stop whining", adding: "How long are you going to keep crying about it?"
Former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva blasted Bolsonaro's "moronic" and "uncivilised" handling of the crisis.
He said: "This country is in a state of utter tumult and confusion because there’s no government.
"I’ll repeat that: this country has no government. So, so many lives could have been saved."
Brazil's unchecked Covid explosion is a "threat to humanity" and could scupper hopes of bringing the pandemic under control, experts warn.
Experts say the situation is a "disaster" – not just for Brazil but for the whole world.
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