(FILES) In this file photo taken on June 1, 2020 a health professional works at the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) ward where patients infected with the COVID-19 novel coronavirus are being treated, at the Santa Casa hospital in Belo Horizonte, state of Minas Gerais, Brazil. Douglas MAGNO / AFP.
Brazil’s economy, the biggest in Latin America, contracted by a record 9.7 percent in the second quarter of 2020, plunging into recession as coronavirus lockdowns hit home, the official statistics agency said Tuesday.
Brazil has been hit hard by the pandemic, with the second-highest number of infections and deaths worldwide after the United States, and stay-at-home measures to contain the virus have taken a heavy toll.
“GDP is now at the same level as late 2009, at the height of the global financial crisis,” the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) said in a statement.
The contraction was worse than the 9.2 percent average forecast by 49 economists polled by business daily Valor.
However, it was better than the 11.1 percent drop economists were predicting in May.
Analysts say that improvement was largely thanks to the decision by President Jair Bolsonaro’s administration to launch a massive stimulus program that has been paying 600 reals ($110) a month to Brazilians hit hardest by lockdown measures.
Brazil’s economy shrank a revised 2.5 percent in the first quarter, as the impact of the pandemic began to hit, IBGE said.
Since then, Covid-19 has exploded in Brazil: the country has now registered more than 3.9 million infections and 121,000 deaths.