More than 4,000 COVID deaths have been recorded in a single day in Brazil, with one doctor comparing the country’s crisis to a “biological Fukushima”.

The outbreak is overwhelming hospitals in the South American nation – and scientists are forecasting that the surge in fatalities will soon surpass the worst of a record January wave in the US.

Even though Brazil’s population is two-thirds that of America’s, the country’s overall death tolls from COVID-19 now stands at 337,000 – second only to the US on 555,000.

While the US focuses on rolling out vaccines, the more contagious Manaus variant of the disease and a lack of lockdown restrictions has left Brazil’s outbreak to spiral out of control.

A total of 86,979 new cases were reported in Brazil yesterday, alongside 4,195 fatalities.

Health officials claim the large figures are the result of reporting delays over the Easter weekend.

But Brazil has continued to break new records for daily COVID deaths every week since late February.

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Miguel Nicolelis, a Brazilian doctor who is a professor at Duke University, said: “It’s a nuclear reactor that has set off a chain reaction and is out of control. It’s a biological Fukushima.”

Hospitals are reported to be at breaking point – with witnesses likening them to scenes from a medieval plague outbreak as oxygen supplies run low.

As soon as next week, Brazil may break the record US seven-day average for COVID-19 deaths, according to a model by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington.

The South American nation has overtaken the US as the epicentre of the pandemic as President Jair Bolsonaro refuses to impose restrictions.

He was forced to carry out a reshuffle in recent weeks, which saw all three of his military chiefs resign, as elections approach and the Brazilian people question his position.

Last month he told crowds in Rio de Janeiro to “stop whining” about the virus.

Speaking to reporters, Mr Bolsonaro said: “Enough fussing and whining. How much longer will the crying go on?”

But despite the ominous COVID data, government figures have insisted Brazil will soon be “back to normal”.

Yesterday, economy minister Paulo Guedes said: “We think that probably two, three months from now Brazil could be back to business.”