“We should be living in despair… but Brazil is under collective anesthesia,” one scientist says.
Brazil has hit the grim milestone of 100,000 coronavirus deaths – only the second country in the world to do so.
The number of people in Brazil to have died with COVID-19 has rocketed recently – with the coronavirus taking three months to kill 50,000 people, and then just 50 days to kill the next 50,000.
President Jair Bolsonaro – who caught coronavirus last month – has played down the gravity of the pandemic and fought against lockdowns by local officials.
The US is the only country to have recorded more deaths than Brazil so far with 162,425. Mexico is behind Brazil with 52,006 and there have been 46,651 in the UK, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Many Brazilians protested nightly from their windows in the first months of the outbreak, and protesters marked the latest deaths milestone by projecting “100,000 victims of Bolsonaro” on to a building in Rio de Janeiro.
“We should be living in despair, because this is a tragedy like a world war – but Brazil is under collective anesthesia,” said Dr Jose Davi Urbaez, a senior member of the Infectious Diseases Society.
He and other pubic health experts have claimed Brazil still has no coordinated plan to fight the pandemic, as many officials focus on “reopening”.
The health ministry confirmed 49,970 new confirmed cases and 905 deaths on Saturday within the previous 24 hours, raising the number of cases to more than three million and the death toll to 100,477.
Brazil’s supreme court and congress, institutions that have criticised Mr Bolsonaro’s handling of the pandemic, respectively declared three and four days of national mourning for the 100,000 dead.
The president has not commented publicly.
Two health ministers, both physicians, have resigned over differences with the president.
The acting health minister is an army general who has abandoned the call for social distancing, which experts says is essential but the president opposes.
Mr Bolsonaro, who has called COVID-19 a “little flu”, says he recovered from his own infection thanks to hydroxychloroquine – an anti-malarial drug that remains unproven against the coronavirus.
The drug is no longer used in emergency treatment for coronavirus in the US, with authorities there having deemed its unproven benefits “do not outweigh the known and potential risks” – citing reports of heart complications.
Mr Bolsonaro has since tested negative for the disease, but his wife tested positive at the end of last month.
Alexandre Naime, head of Sao Paulo State University’s department of infectious diseases, said there is no sign as to when the death count in Brazil may subside.
“We don’t know where it will stop, maybe at 150,000 or 200,000 deaths,” he said.
“Only time will show the full impact of COVID-19 here.”