President Jair Bolsonaro said on Thursday Brazil was at the “tail end” of the coronavirus pandemic, despite a surge in infections and deaths that many experts are calling a second wave.
We're at the tail end of the pandemic. Compared to other countries in the world, our government was the best, or one of the best, in handling it, the far-right president said on a visit to the southern city of Porto Alegre.
The comment came in for criticism from his opponents in Brazil, where COVID-19 has killed nearly 180,000 people, the second-highest death toll worldwide, after the United States. The government's own figures lend little support to the president's assessment.
Brazil, which endured a brutal plateau of more than 1,000 Covid-19 deaths a day from June to August, had succeeded in bringing its average daily death toll down to about 300 last month. However, that number has again risen above 800 this week.
Intensive care units at public hospitals in Rio de Janeiro are meanwhile 100% full, and preparations for an eventual vaccination campaign have been caught up in a political battle between Bolsonaro and a likely adversary in the 2022 presidential race, Sao Paulo Governor Joao Doria.
Bolsonaro has been at odds with health experts over how to respond to the pandemic. Originally he downplayed the new coronavirus as a little flu, condemned the hysteria around it and pushed to use the drug hydroxychloroquine against COVID-19, despite a raft of studies showing it is ineffective.