Brazil hits 500,000 COVID-19 deaths as the Amazon Gamma variant accelerates virus contagion

Brazil protesters
Demonstrators gather with signs and flags during a protest against President Jair Bolsonaro’s administration on June 19, 2021 in Sao Paulo, Brazil

  • The number of coronavirus-related deaths passed 500,000 in Brazil on Saturday.
  • Only the US, with 600,000+ deaths, surpasses Brazil.
  • Protesters took to the streets of every Brazilian city to protest Bolsonaro’s pandemic response.
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The number of coronavirus-related deaths passed 500,000 in Brazil on Saturday, BBC News reported.

Brazil’s COVID-19 death toll is the second highest in the world, only surpassed by the US.

The infection rates are between 80,000 and 100,000 people every day, Sky News reported. But these are just the recorded figures. The real numbers, the media outlet said, could be up to four times higher.

The situation, according to Brazilian public health institute Fiocruz, is now “critical.”

Experts have warned that the outbreak is set to worsen because of a combination of a slow vaccine rollout, the rapid spread of highly transmissible variants, and President Jair Bolsonaro’s resistance to introducing social distancing measures.

Read more: The pandemic isn’t over just because you’re vaccinated

Only 11 percent of Brazilians are fully vaccinated, according to The New York Times World Vaccination Tracker.

Bolsonaro, a vaccine skeptic who previously suggested that shots could turn people into crocodiles or bearded ladies, has faced criticism for the slow rollout.

He initially touted unproven anti-malaria drugs and, according to a senator’s testimony during a Senate inquiry, backed herd immunity over inoculation.

Bolsonaro asked Pfizer on Tuesday to speed up the delivery of vaccines in a bid to speed up the disappointing rollout, Reuters reported.

The outbreak is also being fueled by the rapid spread of highly transmissible variants, BBC News said.

The Gamma variant, first discovered in the Amazon region, is more resistant to the effects of antibody treatment, according to CNN.

Experts are concerned that the variant could significantly increase the rate of infections over the next few months.

“Brazil faces a critical scenario of community transmission… with the possibility of worsening in the coming weeks due to the start of winter,” Fiocruz, the public health institute, said.

On Saturday, thousands of Brazilian’s protested against Bolsonaro and his government’s pandemic response.

Local media reported that protests took place in all 26 Brazilian states as well as the capital Brasilia, Reuters said.

Protesters were angry that Bolsonaro, amid a worsening COVID-19 situation, for downplaying the pandemic, ignoring mask-wearing guidance, and rejecting social distancing measures as job-killers.

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Brazil’s president received a fine in Sao Paulo for violating local coronavirus mask restrictions

Jair Bolsonaro
Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro adjusts his protective face mask at a press statement during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Brasilia, Brazil, March 20, 2020. Picture taken March 20, 2020.

  • Brazil’s president was fined in his own country for violating local mask mandates, the AP reported.
  • Jair Bolsonaro must pay $110 for participating in a motorcycle rally in Sao Paulo without a mask.
  • Brazil, with crematoriums continuing to be overwhelmed, has for months struggled to stave off the coronavirus.
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Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Saturday received a $110 fine after failing to wear a mask in Sao Paulo, the Associated Press reported.

Bolsonaro had been riding his motorcycle through the streets of Sao Paulo, where local mask ordinances remain in place. Sao Paulo has required that residents wear masks in public spaces since May 2020.

He and about 12,000 other motorcycle enthusiasts were cheering while maskless, the AP reported. While riding his bike, Bolsonaro shouted at Sao Paulo residents that masks were unnecessary if they were fully vaccinated.

“Whoever is against this proposal is because they don’t believe in science, because if they are vaccinated, there is no way the virus can be transmitted,” Bolsonaro said standing on top of a car.

This is at least the second time Bolsonaro received a fine for violating local mask ordinances. In May, officials in Maranhao fined him for going maskless at a rally.

He and local Brazilian politicians have for months butted heads over the types of restrictions to impose to protect against and stave off the coronavirus in the country.

With more than 486,000 fatalities, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, Brazil has one of the world’s highest COVID-19 death rates. The death rates have been so high that for months crematoriums have struggled to keep up.

New variants of the virus have popped up in different parts of Brazil. Yet Bolsonaro has previously said he would not get vaccinated against the coronavirus. He’s also spouted false information about COVID-19 vaccinations that critics have characterized as fearmongering and potentially dangerous rhetoric.

And while individuals who are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus are far less likely to get it then individuals who aren’t, health officials have for months insisted that masks should still be worn. Vaccines can prevent people from getting sick but not necessarily from being infected.

Less than 12% of the Brazilian population has so far been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

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Brazil faces the coronavirus abyss. It has the highest daily deaths in the world and the COVID-19 crisis is going to get worse, experts warn.

brazil covid deaths
Cemetery workers in full protective gear lower a coffin that contain the remains of a person who died from complications related to COVID-19 at the Vila Formosa cemetery in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Wednesday, March 24, 2021.

  • Brazil’s seven-day average of daily COVID-19 deaths accounts for 26% of the world’s total.
  • The situation is bleak and is set to only get worse, according to the Associated Press.
  • A daily death toll of 4,000 is “right around the corner,” a Sao Paolo doctor warned.
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Brazil is facing the coronavirus abyss. Deaths are spiraling and crematoriums are struggling to keep up, according to reports.

The county currently has far more daily COVID-19 deaths than any other nation in the world, the Associated Press reported.

Brazil reported 3,368 new coronavirus-related deaths on Saturday, according to Worldometers.

The seven-day average – 2,542 daily deaths – accounts for over a quarter (26 percent) of the world’s total death toll, according to Our World In Data.

Read more: Scientists are racing to develop new kinds of drugs that could fight this pandemic and protect us from the next one

There have been so many deaths that burials are happening in Sao Paulo cemeteries every few minutes, CNN reported.

Crematoriums can’t keep up, the media outlet reported. At one facility, CNN said, the demand for cremations exceeded its daily capability by three times.

The situation is bleak and, according to experts, is set to only get worse.

“We have surpassed levels never imagined for a country with a public health care system, a history of efficient immunization campaigns, and health workers who are second to none in the world,” Miguel Nicolelis, a professor of Neurobiology, said in an interview with AP. “The next stage is the health system collapse.”

The healthcare system is buckling under the pressure, AP reported. Almost all intensive care units are at or near capacity, the news agency said.

Daily deaths could also soon reach peaks of 4,000, an expert told AP. “Four thousand deaths a day seems to be right around the corner,” Dr. Jose Antonio Curiati, a supervisor at a Sao Paulo hospital, said.

A highly contagious variant is wreaking havoc, contributing to the country’s 300,000+ COVID-19 deaths so far.

President Jair Bolsonaro’s critics are also placing the blame on the leader’s resistance to introducing lockdown restrictions.

Bolsonaro has repeatedly said that lockdowns aren’t viable for the economy and has instead continued to promote baseless COVID-19 treatments, The New York Times reported.

He has referred to governors and mayors who planned to introduce lockdown measures as “tyrants,” BBC reported.

Earlier this month, Bolsonaro told Brazilians to “stop whining” about the virus.

His critics, including former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, have been vocal in their opposition to his handling of the pandemic. “It’s the biggest genocide in our history,” Lula said.

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President of Brazil, presiding over one of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks in the world, tells people to ‘stop whining’

Brazil coronavirus
Relatives of a deceased person mourn during a mass burial of coronavirus victims in Manaus, Brazil, in May 2020.

  • Brazil’s president told people to “stop whining” as it battles a devastating coronavirus outbreak.
  • Many badly hit countries are now controlling the virus, but Brazil saw record deaths this week.
  • Bolsonaro downplayed the virus and spread misinformation, even as bodies were left in the streets.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Brazil’s populist president told people to “stop whining” as he presides over what is arguably the worst COVID-19 outbreak in the world.

Jair Bolsonaro addressed crowds in the Brazilian capital of Rio de Janeiro on Thursday, where he said, “Stop whining. How long are you going to keep crying about it?,” according to the BBC.

“How much longer will you stay at home and close everything? No one can stand it anymore. We regret the deaths, again, but we need a solution,” Bolsonaro added.

Jair Bolsonaro
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro in Brasilia, Brazil, on February 24, 2021.

Brazil has the world’s second-highest death toll from the coronavirus, with 260,970 people dead as of Friday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

It also has the third-highest number of cases globally, with more than 10,793,000 people having tested positive. It’s behind only the US and India.

Brazil coronavirus
Relatives of Neide Rodrigues, 71, who died of COVID-19, mourn in May 2020 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

And, unlike many of the other worst-hit countries in the world, Brazil isn’t currently seeing a decline in its cases.

We can see that cases in the US and India have been falling:

US coronavirus cases
Daily new coronavirus cases in the US as of March 4 2021.

India Coronavirus cases March 2021
Daily new coronavirus cases in India as of March 4 2021.

But in Brazil, there isn’t any similar drop:

Brazil coronavirus cases March 2021
Daily new coronavirus cases in Brazil as of March 3, 2021.

On the day that Bolsonaro was speaking, Brazil recorded its second-highest number of deaths during the pandemic. 1,699 died in 24 hours  – second only to the 1,910 recorded the day before, the BBC reported.

Bolsonaro has downplayed the virus throughout the pandemic, spreading information and at one point claiming that Brazilians are immune.

He has endorsed medicines that have been proven not to work against the virus and encouraged anti-lockdown protests.

Meanwhile, the country has dug mass graves for its coronavirus dead, and bodies have been pictured on the streets.

Brazil coronavirus
Aerial view of coffins being buried during the coronavirus pandemic in Manaus, Amazonas state, Brazil, in April 2020.

João Doria, the governor of the state of São Paulo, spoke to the BBC after Bolsonaro’s comments on Thursday, where he called the president “a crazy guy” who attacks “governors and mayors who want to buy vaccines and help the country to end this pandemic.”

“How can we face the problem, seeing people die every day? The health system in Brazil is on the verge of collapse,” he said.

Brazil is also battling a new variant of the virus, which is thought to be more contagious and to have originated in the city of Manaus. 

The variant may also infect people who have already had the virus, researchers say.

Campaigners have warned that Brazil’s outbreak could become a “genocide” for the country’s indigenous people, who saw a higher death rate than the rest of the population. Bolsonaro’s environmental policies had already impacted on their fragile societies.

Brazil coronavirus
Satere-mawe indigenous men navigate the Ariau river during the coronavirus pandemic at the Sahu-Ape community in Brazil’s Amazonas State in May 2020.

Bolsonaro has looked to reduce environmental protections, including reallocating land pledged to indigenous tribes and promising during his election campaign to build a highway through the Amazon rainforest and power plants within it.

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