Bolsonaro Faces Harsh Criticism As Brazil Surpasses 500,000 COVID-19 Deaths

Brazilian scientists say that there is hardly one person in the country who has not lost a family member or loved one to COVID-19 as the South American nation exceeds 500,000 coronavirus-related deaths.

Brazil, home to about half of the continent’s population, accounted for nearly a third of the world’s all COVID-19 deaths, Our World in Data showed on June 18.

Experts said the numbers might rise rapidly as COVID-19 and its variants spread uncontrollably across the country.

The current 500,000 death toll doubles the figure registered in January this year, showing that the mortality rate is accelerating.

Six months ago, Brazilian neuroscientist Miguel Nicolelis predicted that the nation would reach 500,000 deaths in July. “In June of last year, we reached 50,000 deaths for Covid-19. In just one year we have multiplied this number 10 times,” he said this week.

“At the time, people thought that the number was exaggerated,” he recalled.

Brazil has also faced a slow vaccination program rollout and firm resistance from the government of President Jair Bolsonaro, who has downplayed the novel coronavirus severity, to impose containment measures.

The South American country is considered “a barn of new variants” as it has no lockdowns or control measures and because only 11.4% of its population has been fully vaccinated.

According to Foreign Relations Ministry, over 100 countries have restricted entry to Brazilians to date. Besides, the pressure on the federal government has increased with anti-Bolsonaro rallies in various cities, including Sao Paulo, Brasilia and Rio de Janeiro, on Saturday despite the quarantine orders.

Mr. Bolsonaro did not mention the 500,000 deaths milestone in a video he shared on social media to encourage security forces.

However, Brazilian Communications Minister Fabio Faria used the occasion to send a message to the government’s opponents. “Soon you will see politicians, artists, and journalists ‘grieving’ the number of 500,000 dead. You will never see them celebrate the 86 million doses applied or the 18 million cured (from Covid-19) because the tone is always that of ‘the worse the better.’ Unfortunately, they cheer for the virus,” he wrote on social media.

Besides the health emergency in Brazil, the government offered to host the Copa America after Argentina and Colombia refused to host the important sporting event.

Despite widespread opposition and attempts by national team players to boycott the tournament, Bolsonaro boasted that Brazil would host the main soccer competition in South America. As of June 18, the South American Football Confederation (Conmebol) had confirmed 63 COVID-19 cases related to the event, including 14 from the Venezuelan delegation.