Bolsonaro criticizes distancing measures despite worsening of pandemic

Rio de Janeiro, Feb 26 (efe-epa).- Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, one of the world leaders who has been most skeptical about the seriousness of the Covid-19 pandemic, on Friday criticized the social distancing measures that regional governments once again are imposing to deal with the crisis amid the worsening of the emergency in the South American giant.

“The people are still not managing to remain at home. The people want to work. Those who close down everything and destroy jobs are against what the people want,” said the ultrarightist leader in remarks at the inauguration ceremony for a stretch of highway in Ceara state.

The president rejected social distancing at a time when more and more regional and municipal governments are adopting new and more severe measures, including nighttime curfews and quarantines, to prevent the gathering of crowds that would almost certainly lead to more infections and hospitals being overwhelmed with Covid patients.

Such measures were adopted during the first few months of the pandemic and began to be relaxed last June but the recent spike in the numbers of Covid deaths and confirmed cases in Brazil is leading regional and city governments to reinstate those measures.

In the states of Parana, Santa Catarina and Bahia starting on Friday night a total lockdown will be implemented to prevent local hospitals from collapsing under the weight of Covid patients, given that bed occupancy rates at the intensive care units already exceeds 90 percent.

The government of Sao Paulo, Brazil’s most populous state, announced Friday that the quarantine in the state’s same-named capital and five other important Brazilian regions will be reset at the “orange” level, one of the most restrictive and a move that includes closing bars and prohibiting restaurants from operating in the evening hours.

Other states like Amazonas, Mato Grosso, Piaui and Sao Paulo itself have imposed nighttime curfews in recent days.

According to health authorities, the situation has worsened in practically all parts of the country and at least eight of the 27 Brazilian states are on the verge of having their hospital systems overwhelmed.

South America’s largest country has been one of the world’s nations hardest-hit by the health crisis with some 252,000 deaths and 10.4 million confirmed cases, just as Brazil marks the one-year point since the first case was detected and is currently experiencing a second wave of the pandemic that is more virulent and deadly than the first one.

Just on Thursday 1,541 new Covid deaths were registered, the second-highest daily total, thus pushing the country over the quarter-million mark in terms of its death toll and confirming Brazil as the world’s No. 2 country for that dire statistic after the United States.

Despite the worsening of the pandemic, Bolsonaro criticized the social distancing measures one day after having called into question the efficacy of using facemasks to prevent infection by the virus.

The president cited an alleged German study – although it was performed without scientific rigor and limited itself to a survey with a high participation of pandemic denialists – to argue that facemasks do not work in limiting the spread of the virus.

Bolsonaro, refusing to wear a facemask himself or take any other preventive precautions, spoke to a large crowd at the event in Ceara and said that he felt great satisfaction at being out among the people.

“To the politicians who criticized me, I suggest that they do the same thing. I get great pleasure from being out among the people and I can tell those politicians and (regional leaders) that what I heard most (was): ‘Mr. President, we want to work,'” said Bolsonaro, insisting that the social distancing measures are causing companies to go bankrupt and are increasing unemployment.

Bolsonaro attributes Brazil’s rise in unemployment to its record average of 13.5 percent last year and the country’s historic economic contraction of 4.5 percent, according to the latest projections, to the social distancing measures.


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