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Brazil's COVID-19 Deaths Top 400,000 Amid Fears Of Worsening Crisis

With little space left at Nossa Senhora Aparecida cemetery in Manaus, Brazil, graves of COVID-19 victims line a street, seen in an aerial photo taken on Thursday as the country passed 400,000 virus deaths.
With little space left at Nossa Senhora Aparecida cemetery in Manaus, Brazil, graves of COVID-19 victims line a street, seen in an aerial photo taken on Thursday as the country passed 400,000 virus deaths.

Brazil surpassed 400,000 COVID-19 deaths on Thursday at the tail-end of the country's deadliest month of the pandemic yet.

At last count, 401,186 people had died in Brazil based on data tracked by Johns Hopkins University, a toll only the U.S. has topped.

More Brazilians have died from the virus in the first four months of this year than in all of 2020, with the death toll having jumped from 300,000 to 400,000 in the past five weeks alone.

The daily average of deaths has dipped recently, from over 3,000 two weeks ago to an average of fewer than 2,400 deaths, according to Brazil's health ministry.

Health systems remain under intense pressure and — between the relaxation of COVID-19 measures, a sluggish vaccine rollout and the spread of a more contagious virus variant — experts predict the pandemic will soon get worse.

Fewer than 7% of Brazilians are fully vaccinated. A shortage of vaccine supplies has prevented some from getting their crucial second dose.

Brazilians are increasingly resisting social distancing as towns and cities ease restrictions, cheered on by President Jair Bolsonaro.

Bolsonaro, who continues to attack COVID-19 restrictions, has been widely criticized for his handling of the health crisis. In a television interview on Friday, the president accused governors of using lockdowns to suppress the public's right to freedom of movement and threatened to use military force to intervene.

A Senate commission will scrutinize Bolsonaro's conduct as part of an investigation it launched this week into the government's response to the pandemic. Senators want to know why Bolsonaro defied medical expertise to promote anti-malarial drugs as a coronavirus cure and why he blocked the purchase of some vaccines last year.

In a brief video message after his country reached the latest benchmark, Bolsonaro said in a video broadcast posted to his social media accounts that "a big number of deaths has been announced," according to The Associated Press, and that he is "sorry for every death." But he repeated his opposition to social distancing measures.

"I pray to God so there is not a third wave," Bolsonaro said. "But if the lockdown policies continue this country will be dragged to extreme poverty."

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