The reluctancy of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro to take the coronavirus epidemic seriously has led to Brazil now having more positive cases of the virus than any country in the world other than the United States.
The country reached 363,211 infections, registering 15,813 new infections in the last 24 hours, according to the Ministry of Health. The number of deaths, meanwhile, also increased. A total of 653 new victims were reported, with a total of 22,666 people losing their lives due to the pandemic so far.
Brazil, which last week reported 17,500 cases a day on average, has already surpassed Russia, which is now in third place on the list of countries with the most COVID-19 cases, with just over 344,000 positive cases. The United States remains the nation most affected by the pandemic, with more than 1.6 million cases.
San Pablo, the richest and most populous state in Brazil, with some 46 million inhabitants, is the epicenter of the pandemic in the country, registering 6,163 deaths and 82,161 confirmed cases. Rio de Janeiro has 37,912 infected.
The state of Ceará, in the impoverished northeast of the country, ranks third with 35,595 infections and 2,324 deaths — alarming numbers for its population, estimated at some nine million people. Amazonas, another of the regions most affected by the pandemic in Brazil, registered 29,867 cases and 1,758 deaths.
In Amazonas, the first state in the country to be hit by the coronavirus, the numbers begin to drop in the urban region, but those of indigenous populations raise alarms. According to the latest report from the Ministry of Indigenous Health, 60% of the Brazilian natives affected by the virus are located in Amazonas.
In this context, President Bolsonaro once again challenged COVID-19 by participating in a demonstration of followers, in which he mixed with the crowd, again ignoring the recommendations to avoid being infected by the virus. He did so without a mask, whose use is not mandatory in the country.
Almost unable to move among the crowds, Bolsonaro greeted several of the followers and even hugged and carried children in his arms. The head of state was happy with the support of his followers at a time when his credibility is being questioned due to its lack of policies over the epidemic.
Bolsonaro’s stance is largely in line with his counterpart and ally U.S. President Donald Trump, who has been stressing the need to put people back to work as unemployment figures keep growing. However, while Trump has been kept in check by the rest of the administration and by Congress, Bolsonaro has been given a freer hand.
Since Brazil confirmed its first coronavirus case on 26 February, Bolsonaro has continually downplayed the pandemic, rejecting what he considers to be “hysteria” over its dangers. Asked about a record 474 deaths in a day in early May, he told reporters “so what?” and “what do you want me to do?”
The epicenter of the pandemic has shifted to South America as cases in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo explode six months after the new coronavirus emerged on the other side of the world in China, the World Health Organization declared last week.
“We’ve seen many South American countries with increasing numbers of cases and clearly there’s a concern across many of those countries, but certainly the most affected is Brazil at this point,” Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s emergencies program, said at a news briefing