BRASILIA, March 23 (AFP) - Brazil's daily COVID-19 death toll soared past 3,000 for the first time Tuesday (Mar 23) as the hard-hit country struggled to contain a surge of cases that has pushed many hospitals to breaking point.
The health ministry registered a record 3,251 deaths in the past 24 hours, bringing Brazil's overall death toll to nearly 299,000 - second only to the United States.
The latest bleak milestone came on the same day President Jair Bolsonaro installed his fourth health minister of the pandemic, facing pressure to change tack after downplaying the virus and flouting expert advice on containing it.
Cardiologist Marcelo Queiroga, 55, took over the post from Eduardo Pazuello, an army general with no medical experience whose handling of COVID-19 was widely criticized.
Pazuello is notably facing investigation for failing to ensure oxygen supplies to the northern city of Manaus, where there were horrific scenes in January of COVID-19 patients suffocating to death when hospitals ran out.
Bolsonaro's first two health ministers, Doctors Luiz Henrique Mandetta and Nelson Teich, both fell out with the president over his defiance of expert advice on containing the virus.