Brasilia, May 10 (IANS) Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has continued to downplay the COVID-19 situation with actions considered frivolous, such as riding a jet ski, as the pandemic has claimed 10,656 lives in the country and infected 156,061 others.
Ignoring the grim stats, Bolsonaro on Saturday rode a jet ski on a lake in Brasilia and took photos with his supporters, reports Efe news.
He had initially planned to hold a barbecue celebration for some 30 guests, but due to a barrage of criticism, the President cancelled the gathering and opted to ride the jet ski instead.
Brazil is already the sixth country in the world with the most deaths, behind the US, UK, Italy, Spain and France, and has surpassed the 10,000 fatalities mark less than two months after the confirmation of the first on March 17.
The figures confirm the rapid expansion of the pandemic. In just 10 days the numbers doubled in the country and on April 30, 5,901 deaths were recorded.
Given the death toll, Brazil’s National Congress and Supreme Court have declared three days of mourning.
According to a British scientific journal The Lancet, “perhaps the biggest threat to Brazil’s COVID-19 response is its President, Jair Bolsonaro”.
In an editorial published on Saturday, The Lancet said that Bolsonaro “not only continues to sow confusion by openly flouting and discouraging the sensible measures of physical distancing and lockdown brought in by state governors and city mayors but has also lost two important and influential ministers (Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta and Justice Minister Sergio Moro) in the past 3 weeks”.
The editorial highlighted Bolsonaro’s April 28 response to reporters’ questions on the more than 5,000 deaths due to COVID-19 in the country, where he had said: “So what? What do you want me to do?”
Despite Bolsonaro’s repeated attacks and criticism of lockdowns, governors and mayors have tightened restrictive measures across the 27 states of the country due to rapid spread of the virus.
Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, two of the most affected areas, have extended their measures until May 31 and their respective governors, Joao Doria and Wilson Witzel have not discarded the possibility of total confinement.
Similarly, lockdowns were now in place in Maranhao state and in 10 municipalities of the state of Para, while several cities have announced their implementation starting next week, including Niteroi and Sao Goncalo in the metropolitan region of Rio de Janeiro.