Brazil saw the total number of deaths due to coronavirus surpass 5,000 on Tuesday after reporting 474 deaths over the past 24 hours, making its overall pandemic-related toll the ninth-highest worldwide.
In contrast to other parts of the world, Brazil’s coronavirus curve is climbing, Health Minister Nelson Teich announced during a news conference Tuesday. As of Tuesday, the country had counted nearly 72,000 positive cases, 5,017 deaths, and a 7% death rate.
When asked during the same news conference about mounting fatalities, President Jair Bolsonaro answered, “So what? What do you want me to do about it?” before joking that even though his middle name means messiah in Portuguese, “I can’t make miracles.”
The leader has refused to follow World Health Organization guidance on combating the virus throughout the outbreak. On the domestic front, he’s criticized governors who called for quarantines, fired his health minister for advocating for restrictions and containment measures, and personally took to the streets without a protective face mask, shaking hands and visiting crowded bakeries and markets as a rebellious gesture.
Even as increasing numbers of Brazilians fall victim to the virus, some businesses across the country have taken Bolsonaro’s lead. Popular clothing store Hering announced Tuesday it would immediately reopen their 104 stores, and more than 50 shopping malls are back in business, welcoming crowds of masked consumers.
In other places in the country, the outbreak is ravaging fragile health systems: hospitals overwhelmed, and beds and ventilators in short supply. Images of hastily-dug cemetery plots in Sao Paulo are splashed across front pages of international newspapers. Some local leaders, including the governors of Ceara and Sao Paulo states and the mayor of Rio de Janeiro, have extended their quarantine periods to cope with the escalating damage inflicted by what the president had at one pointed derided as just “a little flu.”
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