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Latin America and the Caribbean surpass Europe's number of coronavirus cases

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Latin America and the Caribbean surpass Europe's number of coronavirus cases
Copyright  Eraldo Peres/AP
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Latin America and the Caribbean have now surpassed Europe in their number of coronavirus cases - with more than 2.7 million infections.

The rise has been driven by Brazil’s sharp upturn in cases in recent weeks. Peru, Chile and Colombia have suffered heavy outbreaks as well.

Peru and Chile are quickly approaching 300,000 total infections of COVID-19. Over 10,000 people have died from the virus in Peru while over 6,000 have died in Chile. Colombia has over 100,000 cases and about 3,700 death.

Bolsonaro weakens law over face masks

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro watered down a law requiring face masks in Brazil on Friday.

He approved the law which obliges the use of masks on streets and on public transport but he vetoed other measures including requiring masks in churches, schools, shops and factories, plans to provide masks to vulnerable groups, and requirements for commercial establishments to provide masks to their employees.

But even in cities where masks have been mandatory, compliance and enforcement have been lax.

Wearing a facemask has become a political act in the South American country, much like in the US.

Brazil has confirmed more than 61,500 deaths and nearly 1.5 million infections and is currently the word's second worst-hit country.

Experts say both are significant undercounts, however, since there is a lack of widespread testing across the country.

Havana reopens

Cuba reopened its capital of Havana on Friday after being put on lockdown in March. The capital’s 2.2 million residents can freely take public transport and dine out again.

Compared to many neighbouring countries, Cuba has had a light outbreak with about 2,000 cases and under 100 deaths.

The government has been given credit for acting early to contain the outbreak. Before Cuba’s first case had been recorded, teams of doctors and nurses were dispatched to ask people about respiratory symptoms and provide information about the disease.

Florida struggles to contain its outbreak

Florida has suffered from a much heavier outbreak though. The state recorded about 9,500 new coronavirus cases on Friday, far more than most European countries have recorded in a single day.

Beaches in Miami will stay shut over Independence Day weekend too - a popular time to have beachside barbecues.

The rapid spread prompted ten Democratic legislators to urge Governor Ron DeSantis to make face masks obligatory in public spaces. DeSantis has resisted the calls.