RIO DE JANEIRO: When 97-year-old Brazilian Gina Dal Colleto was hospitalised on Apr 1 with coronavirus symptoms, few could have thought she would survive the deadly virus.

On Sunday, however, Dal Colleto was pushed in a wheelchair out of Sao Paulo’s Vila Nova Star hospital to applause from doctors and nurses, becoming the oldest known survivor of COVID-19 in Brazil, the Latin American country worst-hit by the outbreak.

Her unexpected recovery was a ray of hope in Brazil, where the coronavirus has laid bare a stretched public health system and exposed fierce political debate over how to best tackle the virus’ spread and prop up the country’s economy.

READ: Brazil’s Sao Paulo to get two-week coronavirus shutdown, Bolsonaro blasts ‘hysteria’

The sole survivor of an Italian family comprised of 11 siblings, Dal Colleto lived alone in the port city of Santos, Rede D’Or São Luiz, which controls the Vila Nova Star hospital said in a statement.

“Even with almost a century of life, Gina has a very active routine and enjoys walking, shopping and cooking,” the statement said. “She has six grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.”

While she was hospitalised, Dal Colleto was put on oxygen and admitted to intensive care, the statement said.

On Saturday, Brazil’s health ministry said 1,124 people had died as a result of the outbreak, with 20,727 confirmed cases.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, a far-right former army captain, has chafed at social distancing measures imposed by state governors and even his own health officials. He wants to see the economy restarted, arguing that extended shutdowns pose a greater risk than a disease he calls a “little cold.”

READ: Brazil’s Bolsonaro urges no more coronavirus quarantine, says jobs being lost

However, that stance has cost him in the polls and most nights, in cities across Brazil, quarantined Brazilians are banging pots and pans in protest at his handling of the crisis.

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