Brazil surpasses 100,000 coronavirus deaths
(AFP) – Brazil on Saturday surpassed 100,000 coronavirus deaths and three million cases of infection, crossing the grim milestone after President Jair Bolsonaro said he had a “clear conscience” on his response to the outbreak. With 100,477 fatalities and 3,012,412 confirmed cases, the South American nation of 212 million people is the second hardest-hit country in the global pandemic, after the United States.
The health ministry reported 905 new deaths in the past 24 hours, as well as 49,970 fresh cases. But the official figures are most likely an undercount, with experts estimating that the total number of infections could be up to six times higher due to insufficient testing. Brazil has seen 478 deaths per million people, a figure roughly equivalent to that of the United States (487), but lower than that of Spain (609) or Italy (583). Senate speaker Davi Alcolumbre announced four days of mourning in Congress to pay tribute to the country’s 100,000-plus virus victims.
The coronavirus outbreak in Brazil is showing no sign of slowing as it enters its sixth month. The country’s first confirmed COVID-19 case was identified in Sao Paulo on February 26, with the first death on March 12, also in the city. Brazil marked 50,000 deaths a hundred days later, but then doubled that total in just half the time. Infections have accelerated in recent weeks in the countryside as well as inland regions and areas where the virus was late arriving, particularly the country’s south and center-west. In southeastern states such as Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, hardest-hit by the virus in absolute numbers, the situation has stabilized, while the virus’ presence has declined in northern regions after reaching catastrophic levels in April and May.
– ‘Arrogance’ – At Copacabana beach in Rio, activists from the NGO Rio de Paz released 1,000 red balloons Saturday while standing between 100 black crosses stuck in the sand, in a tribute to Brazilians who have died of coronavirus. Former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Bolsonaro’s leftist nemesis, on Twitter denounced “the arrogance of a president who has chosen to describe this cruel virus as a little flu, defying science and even death, and who bears in his soul the responsibility for all the lives lost.” The contagion has cast a harsh light on Brazil’s inequalities, with the virus wreaking particular havoc on the country’s favelas and hitting black populations especially hard.
The country’s indigenous Amazon populations have also been hard hit, with one of Brazil’s leading chiefs, 71-year-old Aritana Yawalapiti, dying Wednesday of respiratory complications caused by COVID-19. Bolsonaro’s government, which has been criticized for managing the epidemic in a chaotic fashion, is on its third health minister since the virus reached the country. The right-wing leader, who tested positive for the virus last month but has since recovered, said Thursday he had “a clear conscience” and had done “everything possible to save lives.”
Bolsonaro also called the governors of states that took containment measures which he opposed for economic reasons “dictators.” Brazil resumed its national football championship on Saturday, three months behind schedule.