BRASILIA – After two consecutive days of record COVID-19 deaths in Brazil, President Jair Bolsonaro called on Brazilians on Thursday to stop whining and move on, in his recent remarks attacking distancing measures and downplaying the severity of the pandemic.
Brazil has the second highest death toll in the world after the US last year. As the US outbreak subsides, Brazil faces the worst epidemic yet, pushing its hospital system to the brink of collapse.
“Enough fuss and moaning. How much longer will the crying last? Bolsonaro told a crowd at an event. “How long are you staying home and closing everything? Nobody can take it anymore. We regret death again, but we need a solution.”
The Ministry of Health registered 75,102 additional cases of coronavirus on Thursday, most in a single day since July and the second highest in history. Brazil also recorded 1,699, a slight decrease from the previous two record deaths.
Brazil’s growing second wave has triggered new restrictions in its capital, Brasilia, and its largest city, Sao Paulo. The tourist Mecca of Rio de Janeiro announced a curfew for the entire city and an early closure for restaurants on Thursday.
The federal government has been slow to buy and distribute vaccines, and less than 3.5% of the population got a shot.
The government is working to get additional vaccines from more suppliers. The Ministry of Health is negotiating on Thursday to buy an additional 2 million doses of Pfizer by May, 16.9 million doses of Janssen by September and 63 million doses of the Moderna vaccine by January 2022, according to Reuters.
Of particular concern to health officials is the emergence of a new variant of coronavirus from the Amazon, which appears more contagious and can re-infect those who have already had COVID-19.
Fiocruz, the government-affiliated medical institute, said it discovered variants of the Amazon, Great Britain, and South Africa found in various locations across the country.
“We have the worst outlook for the pandemic since it began,” said Gonzalo Vecina Neto, doctor and former head of the Brazilian health agency Anvisa.
“Mutations are the result of increased virus reproduction. The more viruses there are, the faster the transmission, the more mutations we have, ”he said
Governors and doctors have complained that the federal government poorly managed the coronavirus crisis as Bolsonaro downplayed its severity and refused bans.
Even so, Bolsonaro’s popularity was backed by reais 322 billion ($ 57.7 billion) in emergency aid payments to poorer Brazilians last year.
The Senate voted on Thursday to renew the aid program on a smaller scale and distribute 250 reais per month for four months at a cost of up to 44 billion reais. The proposal has yet to be approved by the Brazilian House of Commons of Congress.