Brazil's Bolsonaro says 'no national lockdown' despite record Covid deaths

RIO DE JANEIRO – Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said Wednesday there would be “no national lockdown” and ignored growing calls from health experts a day after the nation recorded the highest number of Covid-19 deaths in 24 hours since the beginning of the year Pandemic.

The Brazilian Ministry of Health recorded 4,195 deaths on Tuesday, making it the third country to cross that threshold as Bolsonaro’s political opponents called for stricter measures to slow the spread of the virus.

“We will not accept this policy of staying at home and turning everything off,” said Bolsonaro, resisting the pressure in a speech in the city of Chapeco, Santa Catarina state. “There will be no national lockdown.”

The Conservative President of Brazil also defended the use of so-called early treatment protocols, which include the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine. No scientific studies have shown the drug to be effective in preventing or treating Covid-19.

“There aren’t enough vaccines in the world today. We have to find alternatives, ”he said.

The number of deaths in Chapeco related to the virus has finally fallen after some very difficult weeks. Intensive care units had exceeded capacity and forced authorities to transfer infected patients to hospitals in other states.

Last month the city put some economic restrictions in place for two weeks, but Bolsonaro attributed Chapeco’s recent success to its use of early treatment protocols, the Estadão newspaper reported.

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

“The grave epidemiological situation leading to the collapse of the health system in several countries calls for the immediate adoption of strict restrictive measures,” the statement said.

Intensive care units in most Brazilian states have an employment rate of over 90%, although the numbers have been stable since last week.

The Supreme Court today decides whether or not to reopen religious buildings nationwide. Many local authorities decided to ban large religious gatherings even though the federal government decided to mark them as part of essential services.

“There is no Christianity without community life,” argued the Brazilian Attorney General André Mendonça, a Protestant pastor, in front of the Supreme Court on Wednesday. “True Christians are never ready to kill for their beliefs, but they are always ready to die to guarantee freedom of religion and belief.”

Preliminary results from an ongoing study of 67,700 health care workers in Manaus that discovered a more contagious variant of Covid-19 earlier this year seemed to confirm earlier findings that China’s Sinovac vaccine is effective against the virus. The press release published on Wednesday mentioned an efficacy rate of 50% after administration of only one of the two vaccine doses.

The study has not yet been published or peer-reviewed. Several health experts consulted by The Associated Press said it was impossible to properly evaluate the preliminary results without access to the methodology and the full results of the study, but all agreed that it looked promising.

Researchers from the Stanford University School of Medicine, the Yale School of Public Health and the state-owned Brazilian Fiocruz Institute are involved in the study.

In its own preliminary study in March, the Butantane Institute in Sao Paulo also found that the vaccine against the P1 variant is effective.

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