Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Tens of thousands protest in Brazil demanding president’s impeachment, better vaccine access

Brazil has the world's second-highest death toll but Bolsonaro has consistently played down the virus' severity and cast doubt on vaccines.

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Tens of thousands of people have gathered across Brazil to protest at President Jair Bolsonaro’s management of the Covid-19 pandemic.

People turned out in at least 16 Brazilian cities on Saturday, including the capital Brasilia and Rio de Janeiro, calling for his impeachment and demanding more coronavirus jabs.

Bolsonaro’s popularity has plummeted in the past year, with nearly half a million people dying during the pandemic.

Despite the second-highest death toll after the US, the far-right leader has consistently played down the virus’ severity, dismissed mask-wearing and cast doubt on the importance of vaccinations.

This weekend’s protests were organised by left-leaning political parties, unions and students’ associations.

Most people wore masks and tried to observe social distancing as they called for a faster vaccination programme.

Bolsonaro repeatedly downplayed the pandemic in its initial stages. He previously called Covid-19 a “little flu” and sabotaged efforts to implement social distancing or lockdowns.

Brazil’s Senate is conducting an inquiry into the Bolsonaro government’s handling of the pandemic.

In Sao Paulo, protesters expressed frustration with Bolsonaro’s policies.

Nurse Patricia Ferreira said Bolsonaro was “worse than the virus at the moment”.

“We are exhausted, with our healthcare system on the verge of collapse,” she said. “There is no solution to the pandemic with him in power.”

Student Beatriz Fernanda Silva said she was demonstrating to honour her uncle, who she said was killed by Covid-19 at age 42.

“I came here to fight for the vaccine that he was unable to get and could have saved him. He died at the end of February and left two children and a wife,” she said.

“A lot of people are dying. Bolsonaro should do something about it, but from the start, he treated it with total neglect,” Silva told CNN.

In Sao Paulo, Brazil’s largest city, thousands of people blocked one of the largest avenues in the city.

Protests in Brasilia and Rio were peaceful but police in the northeastern city of Recife used tear gas and rubber bullets on demonstrators.

Meanwhile, Brazil reported over 2,000 deaths on Saturday, its health ministry said.

Cases also remain high, with nearly 80,000 new infections – taking the total since the start of the pandemic to 16.5 million.

Brazil’s population is 211 million but according to official figures only 66.4 million vaccine doses have been administered, with about 10% – or nearly 22 million people – fully vaccinated.

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