RIO DE JANEIRO, Jan. 26 (Xinhua) -- Brazil registered 1,214 deaths from the novel coronavirus and 61,963 new cases in the last 24 hours, the government said Tuesday.
According to the Ministry of Health, the death toll has climbed to 218,878 and the caseload to 8,933,356 since the start of the pandemic here in late February.
The southeast state of Sao Paulo, the most populated in the country, is the hardest hit, with 1,715,253 cases and 51,838 deaths, followed by neighboring Rio de Janeiro, with 505,596 cases and 29,043 deaths.
Brazil, which is experiencing a second wave of rising infections and deaths since December, began mass immunization against COVID-19 last week with 6 million doses of CoronaVac, a vaccine developed by Chinese pharmaceutical firm Sinovac in collaboration with the Butantan Institute of Sao Paulo, and 2 million doses of a vaccine by Britain's AstraZeneca and the Oxford University.
Also on Tuesday, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said his government signed a letter of intent to purchase 33 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine by private Brazilian companies, with the proviso that half of the doses will be donated to the country's public healthcare system.
"We are already the sixth country that has vaccinated the most in the world. We will soon be among the first, to give more relief to the population and security to everyone, and so our economy does not stop functioning," he said.