The head of the Red Cross federation on Wednesday expressed grave concern about the continuing spread of the coronavirus in the Americas and criticized Brazil and U.S. government leaders for their disastrous science-rejecting responses to the pandemic thus far.
Francesco Rocca, president of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), made the remarks at a virtual press conference in Geneva where he warned that "we haven't yet reached the peak of this outbreak."
Rocca said the effects of partisan rhetoric and policies out-of-line with science on the pandemic were clear.
"America as a continent is paying the highest price for this kind of division or not following the advice coming from the scientific community," he said. President Donald Trump in the U.S. and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro have faced sustained criticism over their handling of the coronavirus. Bolsonaro, who notably dismissed it as a "little flu," has, like Trump, refused to wear a face mask in public gatherings.
The two countries lead the world in coronavirus cases. As of press time, the Johns Hopkins tracker showed the U.S. with the highest number of confirmed cases—over 2.6 million. Brazil is a distant second with over 1.4 million confirmed cases. The countries also have the highest number of Covid-19 related deaths; the U.S. has had over 128,000 such deaths and Brazil over 60,000.
According to Rocca, Bolsonaro "underestimated the consequences of Covid, and his country is living the consequences."
"If the scientific community is saying that it is important to avoid to shake hands, and to wear masks, I think that the leaders should follow and listen," Rocca said when asked about Trump's mask refusal.
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Rocca added that other world leaders too "have been irresponsible" in their response to the coronavirus pandemic and said politicians must "start learning to follow the advice coming from the scientific community."
Rocca's remarks came the same day Trump said the virus would "disappear."
"I think we're gonna be very good with the coronavirus," Trump told Fox Business. "I think that at some point that's going to sort of just disappear, I hope."
The U.S. is on a string of record-setting single-day totals for the coronavirus, hitting a fourth record on Tuesday with over 48,000 new cases and over 50,000 cases on Wednesday.
According to the nation's top infectious disease expert, the daily figure could go even higher.
Speaking before a Senate committee hearing Tuesday, Dr. Anthony Fauci said he "would not be surprised if we go up to 100,000 a day if this does not turn around."