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Mounting Death Toll and Confirmed Covid-19 Cases in Brazil Increase Anger Over Bolsonaro's Response

"The situation couldn't be worse," said one Brazilian public health expert. "It just couldn't."

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro (C) waves to supporters during the inauguration of a field hospital in Aguas Lindas, in the State of Goiais, Brazil, on June 5, 2020 amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro (C) waves to supporters during the inauguration of a field hospital in Aguas Lindas, in the State of Goiais, Brazil, on June 5, 2020 amid the Covid-19 pandemic. (Photo: Sergio Lima/AFP via Getty Images)

The rising number of confirmed Covid-19 cases and related deaths in Brazil is leading to further condemnation of how President Jair Bolsonaro has responded to the pandemic—which, as of Friday afternoon, had left over 34,000 Brazilians dead and nearly 615,000 infected, according to the Johns Hopkins global tracker.

Brazil on Thursday surpassed Italy as the nation with the third-most deaths from the coronavirus crisis, after the United Kingdom and the United States. The U.S. has significantly more documented deaths and confirmed Covid-19 cases than any other country. In terms of cases, Brazil now ranks second globally.

Both within and beyond Brazil's borders, Bolsonaro has faced intense criticism for his handling of the pandemic. In mid-April, former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva declared that Bolsonaro was leading Brazilians "to the slaughterhouse" with his "reckless" and "grotesque" response to Covid-19.

Miguel Lago, director of Brazil's Institute for Health Policy Studies, told the Guardian Thursday that he worries about the consequences of reopening regions of the South American country too soon. "We are going to witness hospitals collapsing in almost every state," he warned. "I think the worst is still to come."

According to the Guardian:

Lago said Brazil's far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, bore particular responsibility for the dire situation: both for the incompetence of his government's response and for the political self-interest he believed had driven Bolsonaro to deliberately undermine social distancing in order to protect the economy—and his chances of re-election in 2022.

"He doesn't care about the lives of the Brazilians who will die because of his absolutely irresponsible behavior," said Lago.

Lago described the right-wing populist's reaction as even more lacking than those of Donald Trump and Boris Johnson, the leaders of the two countries with the highest Covid-19 death tolls.

Drauzio Varella—an oncologist, author, and broadcaster famous in the country for his decades of public health activism—also expressed concerns about the country to the newspaper. As he put it Friday: "The situation couldn't be worse. It just couldn't."

Varella posited that "because in Brazil we are already the third country in the world in terms of deaths, we will soon become the second, and we are going to come close to the level of mortality in the U.S., which has 330 million citizens—that's 60% larger than Brazil's population."

The 77-year-old also called out Bolsonaro for failing to prepare for the virus despite warnings from experts—and then, once it reached Brazil, "going out on to the streets every weekend to draw crowds, without a mask, and challenging the need for isolation."

"Our country had the time to prepare for the epidemic and didn't prepare—and, when the epidemic did arrive, although some measures that could have had an impact in terms of isolation were adopted... this was torpedoed by the federal government," Varella said.

Sharing that report on Twitter Friday, Brazil-based American journalist Glenn Greenwald said the country's crisis was "so predictable (and preventable)."

Boslonaro, for his part, reportedly said of his country's coronavirus-related deaths this week that "we are sorry for all the dead, but that's everyone's destiny."

In an online address Thursday, the president also slammed shutdown and social distancing efforts. "We can't go on like this. Nobody can take it anymore," he said. "The collateral impact will be far greater than those people who unfortunately lost their lives because of these last three months here."

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