The new coronavirus outbreak in hard-hit Brazil has plateaued, the World Health Organization said Friday, urging the country to seize the opportunity to drive down transmission.
"The rise in Brazil is no longer exponential, it has plateaued," WHO health emergencies chief Michael Ryan told a virtual news conference.
Brazil is the second worst virus affected country in the world after the United States, counting nearly 77,000 deaths and more than two million cases.
Figures published by the health ministry Thursday showed there were more than 45,000 new cases over the previous 24 hours, and an extra 1,300 deaths.
But Ryan said the rate of infection had now "stabilised".
He pointed out that the reproduction rate (R0) for the virus, which indicates how quickly it is spreading, had been "quite high" in April and May, standing at 1.5 and in many places over 2.0.
That means that each person infected was infecting at least two other people.
But now the number had dropped to between 0.5 and 1.5, he said, hailing that "the virus is not in a sense doubling itself in the community as quickly as it was before."
Ryan stressed that while this was good news, "there is absolutely no guarantee that (transmission) will go down by itself".
But he pointed out that there was "an opportunity here now for Brazil to push the disease down, to suppress the transmission of the virus".
He urged Brazil to "take control", acknowledging that "it is going to take a very sustained, concerted action in order for that to occur".
"Up to now, in many countries, including in Brazil, the virus has been in charge, the virus sets the rules," he said.
"We need to set the rules for the virus."
Since the beginning of the crisis, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has dismissed the seriousness of the epidemic and criticised containment measures ordered by governors in Brazilian states.
The far-right leader has himself tested positive for COVID-19 and is currently in quarantine.