(Adds details throughout on second COVID-19 wave in Brazil)
By Pedro Fonseca and Gabriel Araujo
RIO DE JANEIRO/SAO PAULO, Dec 16 (Reuters) - Brazil registered over 70,000 new cases of the coronavirus on Wednesday, a daily record, bringing the country's total caseload above 7 million as a second wave of infections slams the South American country.
Brazil has the second-deadliest COVID-19 outbreak in the world, behind only the United States, with over 180,000 deaths from the highly contagious respiratory virus. Wednesday's record came without even the daily numbers from Sao Paulo state, the nation's most populous, which has been the epicenter of the outbreak.
In a statement, the Sao Paulo state government said it had been unable to upload the data because of technical issues.
After reaching a peak in late July, daily coronavirus cases and deaths in Brazil fell steadily until early November.
But in the last month, cases and deaths have spiked.
Epidemiologists consulted by Reuters blamed the second wave on the relaxation of social distancing measures and decreased mask usage among Brazilians.
They also noted that while the first wave was driven by infections among poor Brazilians who lack the means to quarantine for long periods, the second wave has hit wealthier Brazilians, who have caught the virus while working, dining at restaurants and going to the office, among other activities that had been restricted.
Google mobility data indicates that in some locations in Brazil, public transport and workplaces are being more frequented than before the pandemic.
The nation registered 70,574 new infections on Wednesday, bringing the number of total confirmed coronavirus cases to 7,040,608. The previous record for new cases occurred on July 29, when the health ministry recorded 69,074 cases.
The country also recorded 936 new deaths, bringing the total number of COVID-19 deaths in Brazil to 183,735. It was the first time in three months that daily COVID-19 deaths exceeded 900 for two consecutive days.
(Reporting by Pedro Fonseca and Gabriel Araujo; Writing by Gram Slattery and Stephen Eisenhammer; Editing by Peter Cooney and Richard Pullin)
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