Wednesday, 07 April 2021 14:52

Bolsonaro refuses to address record daily total of Covid deaths in Brazil

Another burial in a cemetery in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The nation registered 4,211 deaths from Covid-19 on Monday, a record for a 24-hour period. Photograph: Antonio Lacerda/EPA

Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro laughed off his country recording more than 4,000 Covid-related deaths in one day for the first time, asking supporters: “What am I not blamed for here in Brazil?”

Twice he refused when asked directly to comment on the new record announced Monday night and instead dismissed critics who have accused him of genocide, repeating his claim the pandemic is being politicised to undermine him.

“People here want to destroy the president,” he told a group of followers in front of his official residence in Brasília.

Brazil registered 4,211 deaths from Covid-19 on Monday, a record for a 24-hour period, though the seven-day average for deaths remains below the highs registered at the end of last month. The overall death toll is now 337,364 and the mortality rate among those infected is rising sharply.

Public health experts warn that unless Brazil imposes strict lockdowns the country could soon see its daily death toll reach 5,000.

But Mr Bolsonaro remains virulently opposed to stricter measures.

On Wednesday he continued his campaign against them by visiting the southern city of Chapecó. Its mayor is a supporter who has also come out against lockdowns despite imposing one at the end of February. He also advocates medical treatments promoted by Mr Bolsonaro even though studies show they do not work in combating the disease.

During his visit Mr Bolsonaro defended his opposition to lockdown by claiming: “Whoever gives up a millimetre of liberty for security runs the risk in the future of having neither security or liberty.”

He had previously praised the mayor’s “exceptional work” in containing the pandemic despite the mortality rate in Chapecó being higher than that in its state of Santa Catarina and compared to the national average.

In an attempt to source more doses for his government’s stuttering vaccination programme, Mr Bolsonaro telephoned Russian president Vladimir Putin on Tuesday to discuss the possibility of Brazil buying doses of the Sputnik V vaccine.

Sputnik V is not approved in Brazil but is in use in more than 50 countries around the world, including in neighbouring Argentina where it is the basis of the country’s vaccination programme.

Argentine president Alberto Fernández revealed at the weekend he has contracted Covid-19 two months after receiving his second dose of Sputnik V. But he defended the vaccine saying his symptoms were very light.

“If it wasn’t for the vaccine I would be going through much worse,” he said.

Meanwhile a study in Brazil has found the Chinese CoronaVac vaccine to be effective against the P.1 variant. First detected in the Amazonian city of Manaus at the end of last year, its higher rate of transmissibility has caused global concern and has been blamed for the huge spike in cases across Brazil.

CoronaVac makes up around 90 per cent of vaccines already administered in Brazil, where one in ten people have received at least a first dose.