Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro holds a child during a rally in Brasilia.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro holds a child during a rally in Brasilia.
PIC: AFP

Brazil has become the country with the third-highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the world, after registering a total of more than 255,000 cases.

As of Tuesday, the country accounted for 255,368 cases, with 16,853 fatalities, the sixth-highest death toll in the world, according to the Johns Hopkins University.

The US still accounts for the highest number of cases in the world at 1,508,957, followed in the second place by Russia with 290,678 infections.

The grim milestone comes as country's far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, has dismissed the risks and compared COVID-19 to "a little flu", the BBC reported.

"With my history as an athlete, if I were infected with the virus I would have no reason to worry. I would feel nothing, or it would be at most just a little flu," he has said.

Bolsonaro also continues to oppose lockdown measures, arguing that they will wreck the economy.

In March he made a speech calling on mayors and governors to roll back restrictions: "Our lives have to go on. Jobs must be kept. We must get back to normal."

But the health system of Brazil's largest city, Sao Paulo, could collapse within two weeks, Mayor Bruno Covas has warned.

The city has a population of about 12 million, and official have said that most residents were ignoring social distancing rules, the BBC reported.

More than 3,000 people have died with the virus in Sao Paulo.

But it is not only urban centres that have been badly hit. Amazonas state had almost 21,000 confirmed cases as of Monday.

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