Brazil has exceeded 2,000 Covid-related deaths in a single day for the first time, as infection rates soar.
The country has the second highest death toll in the world, behind the US. Experts warn the transmission rate is made worse by more contagious variants.
On Wednesday, former leader Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva hit out at President Jair Bolsonaro’s “stupid” decisions.
Mr Bolsonaro has downplayed the threat from the virus. Earlier this week he told people to “stop whining”.
The surge in cases has put health systems in most of Brazil’s largest cities under immense pressure, with many close to collapse, Brazil’s leading public health centre Fiocruz warns.
Margareth Dalcolmo, a doctor and researcher at Fiocruz said the country was “at the worst moment of the pandemic”.
“2021 is still going to be a very hard year,” she told AFP news agency.
Wednesday saw Brazil record 2,286 deaths, bringing its total to 268,370.
It means Brazil has a rate of 128 deaths per 100,000 population – 11th highest amongst 20 of the worst affected countries in the world. The highest rates are in the Czech Republic with 208 deaths per 100,000 people and the UK with 188 deaths per 100,000 people, according to Johns Hopkins University in the US
Thursday is the anniversary of a pandemic being declared by the World Health Organization. Worldwide more than 118 million cases of the virus have been recorded, and more than 2.6 million deaths.
On Wednesday, the country recorded 79,876 new cases, the third highest number in a single day. A surge in cases in recent days has been attributed to the spread of a highly contagious variant of the virus – named P1 – which is thought to have originated in the Amazon city of Manaus.
A total of 2,286 people died with the virus on Wednesday.
According to Fiocruz, 15 state capitals have intensive care units (ICUs) that are at more than 90% capacity including Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo.
Reports say the capital Brasilia has now reached full ICU capacity, while two cities – Porto Alegre and Campo Grande – have exceeded capacity.
In its report, the institute warned that figures point to the “overload and even collapse of health systems”.
Dr Hallal, who works in Rio Grande do Sul, said people felt “abandoned by the federal government”.
Mr Bolsonaro has belittled the risks posed by the virus from the start of the pandemic. He has also opposed quarantine measures taken at a regional level, arguing that the damage to the economy would be worse than the effects of the virus itself.
Former leader Lula, in his first speech since corruption convictions against him were annulled, told people not to follow “stupid” decisions by Mr Bolsonaro and to “get vaccinated”.
Speaking on Wednesday he said “a lot of deaths could have been avoided”.