Brazil: largest rise in Covid-19 deaths follows Bolsonaro 'worst is over' claim

  • Country reports 633 deaths on Tuesday as toll nears 8,000
  • President suggested country was passing coronavirus peak

Brazil has seen its largest ever daily increase in its coronavirus death toll, despite erroneous suggestions from President Jair Bolsonaro that the worst of the crisis was over.

Brazil – which is now considered a major global centre of the pandemic – reported 633 Covid-19 deaths on Tuesday, taking its total to nearly 8,000.

Three of Brazil’s 27 states this week announced the country’s first official lockdown measures to try to slow the spread of the disease.

But speaking to reporters outside his presidential palace on Tuesday afternoon, Bolsonaro suggested his country was passing its Covid-19 peak.

“I don’t know yet if the number of deaths is less than yesterday. But if it is, if I’m not mistaken, it’ll be the sixth consecutive day in which the number of deaths has fallen,” Bolsonaro said.

“That’s a sign that the worst is over, and I ask God for this to be true,” Bolsonaro added.

It was not true. Just a few hours later, Brazil’s health ministry announced that the number of reported deaths had in fact risen. Under-reporting and a lack of testing also means the true numbers are almost certainly much higher.

A study for the G1 news site found that five major cities registered 6,061 more deaths than average between the arrival of Covid-19 in Brazil and 25 April. Some of those were probably people unable to access overloaded hospitals who died from other causes.

This week three states began introducing rigid lockdown measures.

On Tuesday, São Luís, the capital of the north-eastern state of Maranhão, and three neighbouring towns went into lockdown for 10 days. The measure was ordered by a judge after intensive care beds in state government hospitals filled up. Maranhão has reported 4,530 cases and 271 Covid-19 deaths.

Roadblocks were set up, private cars banned, and only essential services such as hospitals, pharmacies and supermarkets allowed to open. Streets were empty across São Luís, said Daniel Barros, whose restaurant is only doing deliveries.

“I have already lost people close to me who got sick, who were intubated, who died. So I prefer the lockdown – even though it costs me,” he said.

Fortaleza, the capital of the neighbouring state of Ceará – which has 11,470 confirmed cases and 795 deaths – will introduce similar measures from Friday. Masks will also be obligatory, the state’s leftist governor, Camilo Santana, said on Tuesday.

“It’s the right thing to do, necessary, in spite of all the difficulties it will cause everyone,” said Keny Colares, a doctor and infectious diseases specialist at the São José public hospital in Fortaleza.

Colares said the city was edging towards the collapse of health services seen in the Amazon city of Manaus. “We have very clear signs of danger,” Colares said.

With 4,472 cases and 369 deaths, the Amazon state of Pará also announced a lockdown in 10 cities, including its capital, Belém.

Helena Brígido, vice=president of the state’s infectious diseases society, described hospitals struggling to handle the avalanche of cases while crowds queued outside government banks to receive emergency payments.

“People need to be scared of the virus,” she said. “People need to wake up.”


Dom Phillips in Rio de Janeiro

The GuardianTramp

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