Brazil has become only the second country in the world to record more than 600,000 coronavirus deaths, as far-right President Jair Bolsonaro’s handling of the pandemic continues to face sharp criticism and scrutiny.
Bolsonaro, a coronavirus sceptic, has drawn the ire of health experts and many Brazilians for downplaying the severity of the virus, rejecting lockdowns and other public health measures, and failing to rapidly secure COVID-19 vaccines.
He has faced mass protestsduring the past several months, with demonstrators slamming his government’s COVID-19 policies and calling for his impeachment, and a Brazilian Senate committee in April launched an investigation into his pandemic policies.
But despite Friday’s sombre milestone, there were signs that infections in Brazil were finally ebbing, as the country ramped up vaccinations after a slow start.
More than 70 percent of Brazilians have received a first dose, compared with 65 percent in the United States, which passed the 600,000-deaths mark in June.
“The rejection rate of vaccines is really low, it makes other countries jealous,” said Alexandre Naime Barbosa, head of epidemiology at Sao Paulo State University. “That’s really important for Brazil to contain the pandemic.”
Brazil also appeared to have been spared the worst of the Delta variant so far, with registered deaths and cases falling despite the arrival of the more contagious strain.
Deaths were down 80 percent from their peak of more than 3,000 per day in April, and Brazil no longer has one of the world’s highest daily death tolls.
Still, Al Jazeera’s Monica Yanakiew said many Brazilians are angry about how the government has handled the pandemic.