Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro doubled his opposition to lock-in measures to curb Covid-19 on Wednesday, as experts warned that a large-scale residency was “absolutely necessary” to slow down a deadly wave of coronavirus.
The hard-hit Brazil registered its deadliest day so far in the pandemic on Tuesday with more than 4,000 deaths, which increases the calls for a lockdown – something Bolsonaro has strongly rejected.
The leading public health institute Fiocruz recommended on Wednesday that the country should adopt a strict lock-in to alleviate what it called the “collapse” of the health system.
“Lock-in measures are a bitter but absolutely necessary pill in times of crisis and the collapse of the health system, which the country is now experiencing,” it said.
But Bolsonaro reiterated his opposition to the lock, which he claims is causing economic damage that is worse than the virus itself.
“We will not accept these policies to ‘stay home, close everything, lock down,'” he said during a visit to the southern city of Chapeco.
“There will be no national shutdown. Our army is not taking to the streets to force the Brazilian people into their homes.”
The far-right president has defied expert advice on curbing the pandemic and criticized lock-in, face masks and vaccines, even though the virus has claimed nearly 337,000 lives in Brazil – second only to the United States.
But he is facing increasing pressure to take control of the situation amid a brutal new wave of the virus that has made Brazil the current episode of the pandemic, overcrowded hospitals and forcing cemeteries to hold funerals around the clock.
Fiocruz said hospital intensive care units were at “critical levels” of occupancy in 24 of Brazil’s 27 states.
Bolsonaro complained that he was being treated unfairly by critics of his handling of the pandemic.
“I think I’m the only world leader who takes all this criticism. It would be easier to just follow the masses. That way, people do not accuse you of ‘genocide’ just because I think differently,” he said.
He also renewed his support for the so-called “Covid kit”, a package of medicines such as the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine and the parasite drug ivermectin which he maintains is effective against the disease despite a number of studies showing the opposite.