The death toll of Covid-19 in Brazil has now exceeded 500,000, just behind the United States, which recorded 600,000 deaths last week, and India, where the death toll can range from 600,000 to 4.2 million.
Almost 18 million Brazilians have become infected so far, and the country is recording an average of almost 73,000 new cases and about 2,000 deaths per day, according to official figures. However, many experts believe the numbers underestimate the true scale of the country’s epidemic, as is the case in India.
Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro has been heavily criticized for dismissing the threat from the virus despite contracting himself last year. On Saturday, thousands of people protested his response to the pandemic, including his opposition to regulations on wearing masks and the slow adoption of vaccines, according to Reuters. It is believed that only 11 percent of residents are fully vaccinated.
A severe drought has also struck the country, the worst in at least 91 years, and experts say a terrible fire season could further complicate the country’s battle to fight the virus. The smoke could even make cases of Covid-19 worse by increasing inflammation in the lungs.
“It’s a dangerous situation,” said Dr. Aljerry Rêgo, professor and director of a Covid facility in the Amazon state of Amapá. “And, of course, the greatest risk is to further overwhelm the public health system, which is already precarious in the Amazon.”
In a recent testimony to a legislative committee, Brazil’s former Health Minister described Bolsonaros’ confusing belief that an anti-malaria drug would be effective against Covid-19, and a Pfizer executive said the company was offering millions of doses of its Covid-19 vaccine I went to Brazil last year – but received no response from the government for months.
Mr. Bolsonaro shrugged off the revelations. Last month, his government announced that Brazil would host the Copa America soccer tournament later this year after Argentina decided it would be irresponsible to do so while the virus continued to spread.
On Friday, officials reported that 82 people linked to the tournament had contracted Covid-19, according to The Associated Press. The Brazilian Ministry of Health said in a statement that 37 players and employees of the 10 tournament teams and 45 employees are infected.