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Brazil president rejects lockdown despite record Covid-19 death toll

Brazil’s Health Ministry registered 4,195 deaths yesterday.

Graveyard workers carrying the coffin of a person who died from complications related to Covid-19 in Brazil.
Graveyard workers carrying the coffin of a person who died from complications related to Covid-19 in Brazil.
Image: PA

BRAZILIAN PRESIDENT JAIR Bolsonaro has said there will be “no national lockdown” a day after the nation saw its highest number of Covid-19 deaths.

Brazil’s Health Ministry registered 4,195 deaths yesterday, becoming the third country to go above that threshold as Bolsonaro’s political opponents demanded stricter measures to slow down the spread of the virus.

The country has registered more than 335,000 Covid-19 deaths in total. 

“We’re not going to accept this politics of stay home and shut everything down,” Bolsonaro said, resisting the pressure in a speech in the city of Chapeco in Santa Catarina state.

“There will be no national lockdown.”

Brazil’s conservative president also defended the use of so-called early treatment protocols, which include anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine.

No scientific studies have found the drug to be effective at preventing or treating Covid-19.

“There is not enough vaccine today in the world. We need to find alternatives,” he said.

Leading public health institute Fiocruz recommended today that the country adopt a strict lockdown to alleviate what it called the “collapse” of the health system.

“Lockdown measures are a bitter but absolutely necessary pill in moments of crisis and the collapse of the health system, such as the country is experiencing now,” it said.

The number of deaths in the municipality of Chapeco linked to the virus has finally come down after difficult weeks.

Intensive care units had surpassed capacity, forcing authorities to transfer infected patients to hospitals in other states.

Last month, the city implemented some restrictions on the economy for two weeks, but Bolsonaro attributed Chapeco’s recent success to the use of early treatment protocols, newspaper Estadao reported.

In an open letter published yesterday in newspaper O Globo, the Brazilian Association of Collective Health, which has nearly 20,000 members, called for a three-week nationwide lockdown.

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“The serious epidemiological situation that is leading to the collapse of the health system in several states requires the immediate adoption, without hesitation, of strict restrictive measures,” the statement said.

Intensive care units in most Brazilian states have an occupation rate above 90%, though figures have been stable in the past week.

Bolsonaro today complained he was being treated unfairly by critics of his handling of the pandemic.

“I think I’m the only world leader taking all this criticism. It would be easier to just follow the masses. That way people don’t accuse you of ‘genocide’ just because I think differently,” he said.

- Additional reporting by AFP.

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