Brazil smashed its previous daily record with 4,195 Covid-19 fatalities, health ministry data Tuesday showed — marking the highest death count in the world for that 24-hour period, according to Johns Hopkins University. The new figures pushed Brazil’s total pandemic death toll to almost 337,000.
Additionally, nearly 87,000 new Covid-19 cases were reported across the country, raising the total tally of infections to 13,100,580, according to the health ministry.
Bolsonaro, who has continued to downplay the seriousness of his country’s health crisis, brushed off claims he was to blame for the country’s spiraling death toll. The President has repeatedly opposed lockdowns and restrictive measures, and criticized governors and mayors with insulting language for implementing them.
“They called me homophobic, racist, fascist, a torturer and now… what is it now? Now I am… someone who kills a lot of people? Genocidal. Now, I’m genocidal,” he said to supporters outside the Presidential Palace in Brasilia on Tuesday evening, according to video posted on YouTube.
Several of Bolsonaro’s political opponents have accused him of “genocide,” using the term loosely to characterize the consequences of his Covid-19 response.
“What am I not blamed for here in Brazil?” Bolsonaro asked rhetorically in the video.
The Brazilian leader appeared to imply that the pandemic was an invention of the media that could be solved by providing organizations with government subsidies.
“I can solve the problem with the virus in a few minutes. I just have to pay what governments paid in the past to Globo, to Folha [de São Paulo], O Estado de São Paulo,” he said, referring to a nationwide broadcaster and two São Paulo-based newspapers. “Now, that money is not for the press, it’s for other things.”
And he was defiant in his stance on restrictions, saying that he disagreed with proponents of social distancing measures, and arguing — incorrectly — that the states that imposed tougher restrictions are experiencing higher death rates.
“What’s the state that has locked down the most? São Paulo. Which one has the highest death toll, proportionally? São Paulo,” he falsely claimed.
Although São Paulo has the highest absolute death toll, it ranks 10th in deaths per capita.
Around a third of the deaths reported Tuesday were in São Paulo, where 1,389 people died in 24 hours, state government data showed — a record for the most deaths in a single day in any Brazilian state.
That comes despite the state imposing more restrictive measures a month ago, including the closure of businesses that deal directly with the public, such as shops, restaurants and bars.
Bolsonaro also said locking down would be counterproductive, as people would be more vulnerable to the virus.
“I saw some recent research that those who have a healthy lifestyle are eight times less likely to have problems with Covid,” he said. “You lock people at home… what does he do at home? I doubt they haven’t increased their weight a little, from last year to this year.”
“Even I grew my belly a little bit,” he joked.
The record daily count comes as hospitals and intensive care units (ICUs) in some cities are turning patients away and as the nation’s entire health system is on the brink of collapse. Brazil is battling several new variants, some of which scientists believe are more contagious. Younger people appear to be getting more seriously ill than in the pandemic’s early stages, though it is unclear what role variants may play in that trend.
As of late Tuesday, 23 out of Brazil’s 27 federations reported an ICU occupancy rate of 80% or more. Of those, 15 have either collapsed or are on the verge of collapsing, with ICU occupancy over 90%. Mato Grosso do Sul is already over capacity, while only four states are under 80% occupancy.
Brazil’s vaccine rollout program has also been dogged by delays.
Bolsonaro on Tuesday expressed interest in acquiring Russia’s Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine, during a phone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Bolsonaro added that the shot would first need approval in the country.
“We are finalizing communications with the other [health] authorities, including Anvisa, on how we can effectively import this vaccine,” Bolsonaro said, referring to Brazil’s health regulatory agency.
Global Covid-19 cases have risen for the sixth consecutive week, according to the World Health Organization’s Weekly Epidemiological Update on Tuesday. Brazil, the US, Turkey, France and India are reporting the highest case numbers.