Coronavirus pandemic: Jair Bolsonaro's Brazil now has world's second highest death toll
Brazil has overtaken the UK as the country with the world’s second-highest COVID-19 death toll -- 41,828 fatalities. It confirmed 828,810 cases -- the second-highest total globally, behind only the US. But President Jair Bolsonaro seems unfazed by the alarming numbers.
The novel coronavirus death toll in Brazil -- Latin America's biggest country -- has overtaken the United Kingdom's tally to become the second highest in the world with 41,828 dead. But still, President Jair Bolsonaro doesn't seem to be worried and instead has been blaming everyone else for the current health crisis in the country.
The World Health Organisation's top emergency expert Mike Ryan said on Friday that the current situation in Brazil, now one of the global hot-spots for the virus, was of increasing concern especially in heavily-populated cities.
The Ministry of Health reported on Friday a cumulative total of 828,810 confirmed cases of coronavirus, with 25,982 new infections in the last 24 hours, and another 909 deaths, numbers second only to the United States.
But the original numbers are still thought to be much higher because of insufficient testing. The outbreak in Brazil is thought to be weeks away from its peak.
Brazil's Health Ministry has reported more than 1,200 deaths a day since Tuesday, a mounting toll as the country moves to ease quarantine restrictions and reopen businesses, a move called for by Bolsonaro.
The right-wing leader has minimized the gravity of COVID-19, dismissing it "a little flu," and has accused state governments and the country's media of exaggerating the number of infections and deaths to undermine him.
On Thursday night, Bolsonaro encouraged his supporters to "find a way to get inside" hospitals to film whether the ICU beds are occupied or not, to provide images that the police and Brazil's intelligence agency could investigate.
Brazilian shoppers lined up for hours and crowded into malls that reopened on Thursday in the country's two largest cities. Shoppers continued to crowd malls on Friday, Brazil's equivalent to Valentine's Day.
The President has not scheduled a television address for a while, perhaps not wanting to be drowned out by the din of pot-banging protesters on their balconies intent on making their anger over his leadership heard, the BBC reported.
He had also earlier moved to limit information about the spread of the virus on a government website. People are burying their dead in mass graves in the Amazon and hospitals in some parts are verging on collapse.
When questioned about the death toll in April, Bolsonaro brushed it off saying "I'm not a grave-digger".
A week or so later, he was asked for a comment when Brazil overtook China's death toll, to which he responded "So what?".
Brazilians are preparing themselves for the coming weeks as more than 1,000 people are dying every day.
"Nobody's taking this seriously," says Josy Almeida Balbino, who last week buried her sister Kelly and father Antonio after they died from COVID-19.
Earlier this week, Brazilians critical of their government's ambiguous response to a surging coronavirus pandemic dug 100 graves and stuck black crosses in the sand of Rio's Copacabana beach in a tribute to the people who have died so far.
"The President has not realized that this is one of the most dramatic crises in Brazil's history," said organizer Antonio Carlos Costa, who criticized Bolsonaro for not showing solidarity with the suffering.
"Families are mourning thousands of dead, and there is unemployment and hunger," he said.