As Brazil becomes the one of the epicentres of the pandemic, president Jair Bolsonaro continues to push for normalcy, speaking against lockdown and social distancing measures.
Brazil’s third Covid-19 wave is proving to be the country’s deadliest so far. On Wednesday, when the death toll reached its peak (2,841 deaths in 24 hours), the country completed 19 consecutive days of breaking its own records and surpassing the U.S. in a seven-day moving average.
Brazil has been having a difficult time handling the pandemic. So far, the country has lost over 290 thousand lives to the virus and has over 85 thousand active cases with vaccination efforts moving at a slow speed (only 6% of Brazilians have been vaccinated). Moreover, some expect that Brazil’s health system is likely to collapse even further.
Earlier this year, hospitals in the northern part of the country ran out of oxygen to treat COVID-19 patients, leading patients to die of asphyxiation. Now, as hospitals start filling up all over the country – even in private facilities –patients are being treated on the floor.
Meanwhile, President Jair Bolsonaro’s Federal Government has been having trouble holding on to a Health Minister. Brazil has changed Health Ministers four times since the beginning of the outbreak. Most attribute these constant changes to contradictions between the president’s rhetoric and the health ministers’ positions and public recommendations. Bolsonaro openly speaks against social distancing and masks, as well as advocating for the use of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment against the virus, while former Health Ministers mostly opposed him, pushing for social distancing, masks and denouncing the use of hydroxychloroquine.
Back in November, Bolsonaro claimed that he would not take the vaccine himself and slashed federal government assistance for the vaccine roll-out. State governors had to negotiate and purchase vaccine doses themselves, without Federal Government support, which has delayed the entire immunization process. In fact, at the current speed, it would take until 2024 to vaccinate the entire population.
The new Health Minister, a cardiologist named Marcelo Queiroga, has expressed during a press conference that he would be implementing Bolsonaro’s administration’s plan for handling the virus, adding that he is not considering lockdown measures.