Politics

As epidemic worsens in Brazil, Bolsonaro blames governors

Sao Paulo, Apr 29 (efe-epa).- While the coronavirus crisis worsens in Brazil with more deaths than China and hospitals in some regions overwhelmed, President Jair Bolsonaro washed his hands of the situation Wednesday, blaming it on the governors and mayors of the country.

The virus is relentlessly advancing in the country, already registering 5,466 deaths, 449 in the last day, and 78,162 confirmed cases, according to the report released on Wednesday by the Ministry of Health.

The far-right leader, however, insisted on underestimating the severity of the epidemic, the peak of which is expected to arrive between May and June.

On Wednesday, he said that “the invoice” of the deceased has to be sent to governors and mayors, who have been the main advocates of adopting isolation measures against COVID-19.

“They have to answer,” he told reporters outside the Palacio de la Alvorada, his official residence in Brasilia, adding they could not make him shoulder the responsibility.

When asked what his responsibility would be in the crisis, the head of state replied: “The question is so idiotic that I am not going to answer you.”

Bolsonaro, who has invited Brazilians to return to work, also generated controversy on Tuesday by insinuating that he could not do anything in the face of the increase in victims because, according to him, the Constitution does not allow it.

“So what? I’m sorry, but what do you want me to do?” he said, and added he could not “work miracles” even though his middle name is Messiah.

Bolsonaro, who has classified the quarantine measures as a “crime,” on Wednesday decreed to expand the list of essential activities, which included tire shops or road hotels, although he said that the direction to allow the operation of these businesses is up to states and municipalities.

It was a symbolic gesture. Since the beginning of the crisis, governors and mayors have largely ignored Bolsonaro and followed the recommendations of the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization.

The president’s anger has focused mainly on Sao Paulo governor Joao Doria, and Rio de Janeiro governor Wilson Witzel, who are at the forefront of the regions hardest hit by the coronavirus and have decreed “soft” quarantines in their territories.

Doria responded to Bolsonaro on Wednesday, inviting him to get out of the “bubble” of Brasilia and “his world of hate,” and visit some hospitals to see the “dying people.”

“You said that Brazil is experiencing a ‘flu,’ and now? With more than 5,000 deaths, do you continue to say that the country is experiencing a pandemic of a little ‘cold’?” Doria asked the far-right leader whom he supported in the 2018 electoral campaign.

According to the estimates of the government of Sao Paulo, the death toll from coronavirus, which is now 2,247, would have been 10 times higher in the region without isolation measures.

Health Minister Nelson Teich, who replaced Luiz Henrique Mandetta, a supporter of social distancing and fired by Bolsonaro, acknowledged two weeks ago that the curve is growing.

Brazil registered the first death due to coronavirus on Mar. 17 and reached 1,000 deaths after 24 days.

A week later it exceeded 2,000 deaths. In six days it reached 3,000; two days later it was at 4,000; and in three more it exceeded 5,000.

Witzel announced on Tuesday that the public hospital network of Rio de Janeiro, the third most populous state in Brazil with 17 million residents and the second most affected by the pandemic with 794 deaths and 8,869 infections, has collapsed.

In Sao Paulo, the largest city in the country, 80 percent of the intensive care beds are occupied.

In this context, Doria announced on Wednesday the mandatory use of a masks on the public transport network of Sao Paulo, which has 46 million residents and registers 26,158 infections.

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