Coronavirus: Brazil becomes second country to pass 100,000 deaths after US

Andy Gregory
·3-min read
Crosses, red balloons and Brazilian nation flags are placed in the sand on Copacabana beach in a demonstration organised by Rio de Paz: AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo
Crosses, red balloons and Brazilian nation flags are placed in the sand on Copacabana beach in a demonstration organised by Rio de Paz: AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo

Brazil’s coronavirus death toll has surpassed 100,000, with the country’s affliction showing no signs of abating as most cities reopen shops and restaurants.

The nation became the second in the world to reach the grim milestone by official counts, 10 weeks after the United States.

The virus, initially dismissed by president Jair Bolsonaro as a “little flu”, took three months to claim the lives of 50,000 people in Brazil, and just 50 days to kill the next 50,000.

More than three million infections have so far been identified in the country of 310 million inhabitants, with nearly 50,000 new cases registered in 24 hours on Saturday – although the true figures are likely far higher due to insufficient testing.

Brazil’s Supreme Court and Congress, both of which have criticised Mr Bolsonaro’s handling of the pandemic, declared three and four days of national mourning for the 100,000 dead, respectively.

The president, who has recently recovered from the virus, did not comment publicly.

Experts have lamented that the country’s response to the virus remains fractured, with Mr Bolsonaro having previously opposed regional and national lockdown measures and even attended a protest which called for the military to take power from Congress over proposed stay-at-home orders.

With two health ministers having resigned in less than a month over disagreements with the president’s dismissive and pro-economy approach, Brazil’s health mininstry is currently helmed by an army general with no public health experience, who has abandoned the call for social distancing.

As local officials turned their focus to reopening the economy, protesters in Rio de Janiero marked the latest milestone by projecting “100,000 victims of Bolsonaro” onto the side of a building, with others mourning the deaths by placing red balloons, crosses and Brazilian flags in the sand on Copacabana beach.

In a video streamed to Facebook on Thursday night, Mr Bolsonaro said: “I regret all the deaths, it’s already reaching the number 100,000, but we are going to find a way out of that.”

Meanwhile, public health experts bemoaned Brazil’s “collective anaesthesia” over the virus, which was likened to previously apocalyptic events. the possible eventual impact of which was likened to the mass deaths caused by diseases brought to the Americas by European colonisers.

“We should be living in despair, because this is a tragedy like a world war. But Brazil is under collective anaesthesia,” Dr Jose Davi Urbaez, a senior member of the Infectious Diseases Society, told Reuters.

“The government’s message today is: ‘Catch your coronavirus and if it’s serious, there is intensive care.’ That sums up our policy today.”

Alexandre Naime, head of Sao Paulo State University’s department of infectious diseases, added: “We don’t know where it will stop, maybe at 150,000 or 200,000 deaths. Only time will show the full impact of Covid-19 here.”

He said the only comparison may be diseases brought by colonisers, such as smallpox, which decimated indigenous populations when Europeans first arrived in the Americas, adding that Brazil today seems equally resigned to the deaths still to come.

Additional reporting by agencies

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