Brazilian States Blast Bolsonaro Over Pandemic During Worst Phase Yet

By Lisandra Paraguassu

March 02, 2021

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Disgruntled with President Jair Bolsonaro's handling of a pandemic in its most severe phase, 16 Brazilian governors accused the far-right leader of misleading the country and state authorities urged a nationwide curfew and closure of airports.

A year after Brazil's COVID-19 outbreak began, it has killed over 255,000 Brazilians and yet little more than 3% of the 210 million population has been vaccinated, raising criticism of Bolsonaro for failing to secure timely supplies of vaccines.

Last week was the deadliest yet for Brazil's outbreak, averaging nearly 1,200 confirmed deaths per day according to Health Ministry data. Intensive care units in the country's main cities have reached critical occupancy levels not seen since the first peak of the pandemic last July.

State governors have again adopted restrictions limiting all but essential services, including in Brazil's capital city, Brasilia, which decreed a 24-hour lockdown.

Bolsonaro, who has played down the gravity of the virus and said it was fine if people refused to be vaccinated, turned up his attacks on the governors in recent days, saying they were destroying jobs of Brazilians who want to work.

Over the weekend, Bolsonaro, his sons and some government ministers accused the governors on social media of not having properly used federal funds to tackle the pandemic.

"Closing a city or state so you can say you're doing something is like being an anonymous dictator," said federal Senator Flavio Bolsonaro, the president's eldest son, at an event in Rio de Janeiro on Monday. "A lockdown is a sign of a poor manager."

Sixteen of Brazil's 26 state governors, including three governors who are Bolsonaro allies, issued a public retort on Monday in which they said the president was lying to the nation and providing false data on federal funding to the states.

Hours later the national association of state health secretaries CONASS criticized the federal government for the lack of coordination across the country in fighting COVID-19.

They complained of a piecemeal approach by each state and city, calling for a national curfew and the closure of airports to stop the spread of the virus.

"The whole country is collapsing, all the states," said João Gabbardo, head of the COVID-19 task force in Sao Paulo. "We cannot continue facing this pandemic without a unified approach and a single direction given to the public."

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