As Brazil becomes one of the epicenters of the pandemic, President Jair Bolsonaro continues to push for normality, speaking out against lockdown and social distancing measures.
Brazil’s third Covid-19 wave appears to be the country’s deadliest to date. On Wednesday, as the death toll peaked (2,841 deaths in 24 hours), the country completed 19 straight days of breaking its own records and surpassing the US in a seven-day moving average.
Brazil is struggling with the pandemic. So far, the country has lost more than 290 thousand lives to the virus and has more than 85 thousand active cases with slow vaccination efforts (only 6% of Brazilians have been vaccinated). In addition, some expect Brazil’s health system to collapse even further.
Earlier this year, hospitals in the north of the country ran out of oxygen to treat COVID-19 patients, leaving patients to die of asphyxiation. As hospitals across the country begin to fill up — even in private facilities — patients are being treated on the floor.
Meanwhile, President Jair Bolsonaro’s federal government is struggling to detain a health minister. Brazil has changed health minister four times since the outbreak began. Most attribute these constant changes to contradictions between the president’s rhetoric and the views and public recommendations of health ministers. Bolsonaro speaks openly against social distancing and masks, also advocating the use of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment against the virus, while former health ministers usually oppose him, urging social distancing, denouncing masks and the use of hydroxychloroquine .
In November, Bolsonaro claimed he would not be taking the vaccine himself and cut federal aid for the vaccine’s rollout. State governors had to negotiate and buy vaccine doses on their own, without federal support, which has slowed down the entire immunization process. In fact, at the current rate, it would take until 2024 to vaccinate the entire population.
The new health minister, a cardiologist named Marcelo Queiroga, said at a press conference that he would implement the Bolsonaro government’s plan to deal with the virus, adding that he is not considering any lockdown measures.