With its overall Covid-19 death toll exceeding 34,000 people, Brazil is now the country with the third highest number of deaths in the world, surpassing Italy.

Brazil is widely regarded to be the current global epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic, with more new daily deaths and cases than any other country.

The Brazilian health ministry late on Thursday registered a record 1473 Covid-19 deaths in 24 hours, a rate of one coronavirus death every 58 seconds.

A woman holds a sign that reads in Portuguese 'Dying from a shot or dying from a virus. Are those the options for the favela?' Photo / AP
A woman holds a sign that reads in Portuguese 'Dying from a shot or dying from a virus. Are those the options for the favela?' Photo / AP

The real situation may be much worse, however, as researchers and infectious disease experts believe the full extent of Brazil's coronavirus epidemic has been grossly under-reported by official statistics.

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Deaths by acute respiratory distress syndrome have skyrocketed in the country, with suggestions that some 6000 of these cases, dating back to March and April, may have been undiagnosed Covid-19 deaths.

Furthermore, Brazil's level of testing is dangerously low. Only 4643 out of every million Brazilians have been tested, with one infectious disease expert in São Paulo saying that only patients with moderate to severe symptoms are receiving tests.

Brazilian doctor Drauzio Varella said that historians would be unkind to President Jair Bolsonaro, who is facing international condemnation for his handling of the pandemic.

"I think history will ascribe to him a level of guilt that I really wouldn't want for myself," said Varella, an oncologist, author and broadcaster who is a household name thanks to decades of public health activism.

Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro, wearing a face mask amid the coronavirus pandemic, speaks to supporters. Photo / AP
Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro, wearing a face mask amid the coronavirus pandemic, speaks to supporters. Photo / AP

Only two countries, the US and the UK, have lost more lives, and Brazil seems poised to overtake the latter. Brazil has confirmed 615,000 cases, second only to the US.

Relatives watch cemetery workers shovel dirt over the coffin of 47-year-old Paulo Roberto da Silva. Photo / AP
Relatives watch cemetery workers shovel dirt over the coffin of 47-year-old Paulo Roberto da Silva. Photo / AP

"Because in Brazil we are already the third country in the world in terms of deaths, we will soon become the second, and we are going to come close to the level of mortality in the US, which has 330 million citizens – that's 60% larger than Brazil's population," predicted Varella.

"The situation couldn't be worse. It just couldn't."

He added: "I've the feeling our country is living through a tragedy – and that this tragedy is going to be so much more severe for the poorest," who often lived in cramped, precarious conditions and had no choice but to go out to work and use packed public transport.

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Brazil's coronavirus infection curve is showing no signs of flattening, with experts predicting a peak of daily deaths to arrive only in July.

Despite this, several Brazilian states are beginning to relax social isolation measures and reopen businesses, fearing mass unemployment and bankruptcy.

In São Paulo, Brazil's biggest city and home to almost 70,000 cases of Covid-19, shopping centres and commerce have reopened, and office buildings and car dealerships will be able to resume serving the public today.

Brazil's federal government has been widely criticised for its inadequate response to the coronavirus outbreak, with far-Right president Jair Bolsonaro referring to the disease as a "little flu" on a number of occasions.

Newly dug, empty graves fill the Sao Luiz cemetery. Photo / AP
Newly dug, empty graves fill the Sao Luiz cemetery. Photo / AP

A high-ranking former member of the Bolsonaro government told The Daily Telegraph that the president regularly shot down any attempts to discuss a Covid-19 isolation strategy during cabinet meetings.

Mr Bolsonaro is radically opposed to social isolation and has continuously urged Brazilians to get back to work.