WHO warns of COVID-19 outbreak in Brazil as Bolsonaro blasts Senate probe

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro looks on during a ceremony in the Sao Sebastiao neighborhood in Brasilia, Brazil April 5, 2021. REUTERS/Adriano Machado

Join now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

Register

SAO PAULO, April 9 (Reuters) – Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Friday lambasted an ongoing Senate investigation into his handling of a record-breaking COVID-19 outbreak, which global health officials likened to “hell raging “.

Supreme Court Justice Luis Roberto Barroso ruled late Thursday that enough senators had signed a draft inquiry into the government’s response to the pandemic to launch the inquiry despite Senate leaders blocking it. Read more

“It’s a set up between Barroso and the leftists in the Senate to wear down the government,” Bolsonaro told supporters outside his residence, accusing the judge of “politicizing”.

Join now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

Register

A Senate investigation represents the most serious political consequence yet for Bolsonaro’s approach to the coronavirus, which he likened to a “little flu” last year as he ignored health experts calling wearing a mask and social distancing.

Bolsonaro has backed down on his criticism of COVID-19 vaccines, but he continues to attack governors who attempt even softer lockdowns and measures, accusing them without proof of killing more with those restrictions than the virus itself.

COVID-19 has claimed the lives of more than 345,000 people in Brazil, second only to the United States. One in four deaths from the pandemic this week have occurred in Brazil, where a brutal wave is overwhelming hospitals and setting records of more than 4,000 deaths a day.

“What you are dealing with here is a raging hell of an epidemic,” said Bruce Aylward, senior adviser to the director general of the World Health Organization, during a public briefing.

Still, fatigue and political pressure from Bolsonaro have prompted some governors to ease restrictions despite record deaths.

Sao Paulo state, whose governor has criticized the president, announced it was easing some restrictions next week even as its hospitals struggled to manage the number of cases.

Sao Paulo officials said a drop in hospitalizations justified the decision to restart football matches without spectators, reopen stores selling building materials and resume take-out service at restaurants.

Meanwhile, the city of Rio de Janeiro, the country’s second largest, allowed a series of restrictions that had been put in place at the end of March to expire on Friday. As a result, bars, restaurants and shopping malls can now resume in-person service. Read more

Brazil’s vaccination campaign, although faster than that of most Latin American countries, is progressing slowly compared to many developed countries and has so far relied heavily on one vaccine – Coronavac – which has was developed by Chinese company Sinovac Biotech Ltd (SVA.O) and has been frequently criticized by Bolsonaro.

On Friday afternoon, the national health agency Anvisa announced that it was sending inspectors to two factories in Russia where the Sputnik V vaccine is produced in order to assess the safety of this vaccine.

Join now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

Register

Reporting by Eduardo Simoes; Additional reporting by Tatiana Bautzer; Editing by Brad Haynes and Dan Grebler

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Norman D. Briggs