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'Humanitarian Catastrophe': Doctors Without Borders Slams Brazil's Covid-19 Response

"The lack of political will to adequately respond to the pandemic is killing Brazilians in their thousands," the international medical charity said.

Relatives of a Brazilian Covid-19 victim embrace in a cemetery built for the mass burial of people killed by the pandemic in Manaus, Amazonas. (Photo: Andre Coelho/Getty Images)

Relatives of a Brazilian Covid-19 victim embrace in a cemetery built for the mass burial of people killed by the pandemic in Manaus, Amazonas. (Photo: Andre Coelho/Getty Images) 

Doctors Without Borders on Thursday denounced what it called the Brazilian government's "failed Covid-19 response," warning of a "humanitarian catastrophe" anf t in the South American nation whose pandemic death toll is second only to the United States and calling for a "science-based reset." 

 "I have to be very clear in this: the Brazilian authorities' negligence is costing lives."
—Dr. Christos Christou, MSF

"After accounting for over a quarter of global Covid-19 deaths last week, Brazil does not have an effective plan in place to deal with the pandemic," the international medical charity, known by its French acronym, MSF, charged in a blog post.

"The pandemic in the country has become politicized, and the government has not adopted science-based measures to try to bring it under control," the group said, referring to the administration of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro—who has dismissed Covid-19 as a "little flu" while refusing to follow or promote mask-wearing, quarantines, and social distancing despite having contracted the virus last year. Bolsonaro has also encouraged large gatherings and disparaged vaccines.

"The lack of political will to adequately respond to the pandemic is killing Brazilians in their thousands," said MSF. "Last week, Brazilians accounted for 11% of the world's Covid-19 infections and 26.2% global Covid-19 deaths. On 8 April, 4,249 deaths from Covid-19 were recorded in a single 24-hour period, alongside 86,652 new Covid-19 infections."

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According to Johns Hopkins University's global coronavirus tracker, nearly 362,000 people have died of Covid-19 in Brazil, trailing only the United States and its more than 565,000 deaths.

"Last week, intensive care units were full in 21 out of 27 of Brazil's capitals," said MSF. "In hospitals across the country there are ongoing shortages of both oxygen, needed to treat patients who are severely and critically ill, as well as sedatives, needed to intubate critically ill patients. As a result, our teams have seen patients, who may have otherwise had a chance at survival, being left without appropriate medical care." 

"Public health measures have become a political battlefield in Brazil. As a result, science-based policies are associated with political opinions, rather than the need to protect individuals and their communities from Covid-19."
—Christou 

Pierre Van Heddegem, emergency coordinator for MSF's Covid-19 response in Brazil, said that "not only are patients dying without access to healthcare, but medical staff are exhausted and suffering from severe psychological and emotional trauma due to their working conditions."

MSF international president Dr. Christos Christou said that "public health measures have become a political battlefield in Brazil. As a result, science-based policies are associated with political opinions, rather than the need to protect individuals and their communities from Covid-19." 

"The Brazilian authorities have overseen the unmitigated spread of Covid-19," Christou continued. "Their refusal to adapt evidence-based public health measures has sent too many to an early grave. The response in Brazil needs an urgent, science-based reset." 

Driving home his point once again during a Thursday press conference, Christou added: "I have to be very clear in this: the Brazilian authorities' negligence is costing lives."

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