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Brazil hits 500,000 COVID-19 deaths amid nationwide protests

President Bolsonaro under pressure over management of pandemic

Gabriel Toueg | SAO PAULO

Brazil reached a grim milestone of half a million COVID-19 deaths on Saturday, the heath minister announced.

Marcelo Queiroga said on Twitter that he “works tirelessly to vaccinate all Brazilians in the shortest time possible”. He also expressed solidarity with the families.

Another government official, Communications Minister Fabio Faria, lashed out at the press, criticizing the fact that “politicians, artists and journalists” lament the number.

“You will never see them celebrate the 86 million [vaccine] doses given or the 18 million [Brazilians] cured,” he wrote. According to him, these people “root for the virus.”

While the Senate is investigating the government’s management of the COVID-19 pandemic, thousands of people are participating in mass demonstrations against right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro, calling for him to be impeached, the acceleration of vaccination drive, and emergency economic aid.

They bring together left-wing political parties and social movements, raising criticism for putting the population at risk by enabling the increase in the spread of COVID-19.

The country of over 213 million people has administered at least 85.39 million vaccine doses, according to Our World in Data, a tracking website.

According to local health departments, only 15% of the target population is completely immunized with both doses, while 38% took only the first shot. The number of COVID-19 cases is nearly 18 million.

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