Brazil on Friday reported with the second-highest number of coronavirus infections worldwide behind the United States, as the Americas emerged as a new epicenter of the pandemic.

The South American country has now registered 330,890 infections and 21,048 deaths from the new coronavirus, though experts say under-testing means the real figures may be 15 times higher or more.

The number of deaths in Brazil rose by 1,001 in 24 hours, the third time in four days it has come in over 1,000.

The surge came as the World Health Organization declared South America “a new epicenter” of the pandemic.

WHO emergencies director Mike Ryan said, “Clearly there is a concern across many of those countries, but clearly the most affected is Brazil at this point”.

Brazil was the sixth country in the world with the most deaths, behind the US, UK, Italy, Spain and France, and has surpassed the 10,000 fatalities mark less than two months after the confirmation of the first on March 17.

Earlier, the British scientific journal The Lancet said, “perhaps the biggest threat to Brazil’s COVID-19 response is its President, Jair Bolsonaro”.

Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, two of the most affected areas, have extended their measures until May 31 and their respective governors, Joao Doria and Wilson Witzel have not discarded the possibility of total confinement.

The United States has registered more than 1.6 million cases and nearly 96,000 deaths, according to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University.

Russia has registered 326,488 cases and 3,200 deaths.

Meanwhile, globally, there have been over 52 lakh confirmed cases of COVID-19. At least 3.38 lakh people have died so far.