| 24 May 2024, Friday |

Brazil hits record 100,000 COVID-19 cases in a day, piling pressure on Bolsonaro

Brazil registered on Thursday a record 100,158 new COVID-19 cases within 24 hours, the Health Ministry said, highlighting the scale of a snowballing outbreak that is becoming a major political crisis for President Jair Bolsonaro.

The record caseload, along with 2,777 more coronavirus deaths, comes a day after Brazil surpassed 300,000 fatalities from the pandemic, the world’s worst death toll after the United States.

Brazil’s outbreak has set weekly records due to an infectious new variant, a patchy vaccine rollout and a lack of national coordination. Critics, including senior MPs with ties to the president, are increasingly blaming Bolsonaro for his handling of the coronavirus. He has drawn sharp criticism for his efforts to block lockdowns, scorn masks and sow doubts over vaccines.

Bolsonaro also faces growing calls to replace Foreign Minister Ernesto Araujo over failures in the country’s response to the pandemic. Senate President Rodrigo Pacheco said on Thursday that Brazil’s foreign policy must improve, noting that it was up to Bolsonaro to decide if he would replace Araujo.

A close ideological ally of the president, Araujo has faced criticism for his barbs against vaccine superpower China and struggles to secure doses from the U.S. stockpile.

Sources close to the president told Reuters that Bolsonaro would rather not lose Araujo, an avowed fan of former U.S. President Donald Trump who has struggled to make headway with new President Joe Biden’s White House. But the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Araujo was not on a firm footing. One said the president was likely to ultimately ditch Araujo.

Bolsonaro, who had questioned the “rush” to buy vaccines last year, has vowed to scale up the country’s vaccination drive, targeting 1 million daily doses, compared with almost 350,000 per day over the past week.

Economy Minister Paulo Guedes suggested on Thursday that the private sector could help accelerate immunizations by buying supplies and donating them to the government. It was unclear whether the idea was viable in such a tight global market for vaccines.

  • Reuters