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How did Brazil’s COVID-19 outbreak get so bad?

The South American country is facing a third deadly wave with no sign of letting up. Why?

Roses are placed in the sand on Copacabana beach in honor of 500,000 deaths during a protest against Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Roses are placed in the sand on Copacabana beach in honor of 500,000 deaths during a protest against Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Sunday, June 20, 2021.
Silvia Izquierdo, Associated Press

Brazil, the largest Latin American country, accounts for 2.7% of the world’s population but has accounted for 13% of the world's COVID-19 fatalities according to data from The New York Times. The country is currently suffering under its biggest outbreak yet, says Reuters.

  • This week, Brazil surpassed 500,000 coronavirus fatalities, the second-highest in the world, reports Reuters.
  • Experts estimate that the total number of coronavirus fatalities exceeds official records, says The New York Times.

Now, Brazil faces a third, deadlier wave of COVID-19 with no sign of outbreaks abating anytime soon. A deadly combination of factors have contributed to the country’s devastating outbreaks, reports The New York Times.

What is Brazil’s third wave of COVID-19 like?

Since last week, Brazil has had the highest seven-day average of new coronavirus cases in the world. The country surpassed India last week according to data from Reuters.

  • Wednesday, Brazil recorded 115,228 new cases, the highest single day tally in any South American country, reports The Hill.
  • The health care system has neared the point of collapse, reports The New York Times.

Brazil has recorded 18 million total infections — the third highest in the world behind the U.S. and India. However, its total fatalities, over 507,000 deaths, have surpassed India and rank the second-highest in the world, says The Hill.

Why did outbreaks become so severe in Brazil?

Brazil’s outbreaks have continued increasingly in severity due to three reasons:

  1. Government mismanagement: Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is currently under Senate committee investigation regarding misconduct allegations in his pandemic response, says The Hill. Bolsonaro’s response to the pandemic has been “strikingly lackadaisical, dismissive and chaotic,” says The New York Times.
  2. Slow vaccination rollout: Brazil’s vaccination efforts have finally begun gaining momentum. Still, only 12% of Brazilians are fully vaccinated, says Reuters. Bolsonaro’s government did not obtain enough vaccinations when they first became available, refusing a deal with Pfizer for more expensive vaccines from India’s Bharat Biotech.
  3. New variants: More contagious variants have also contributed to the third wave of outbreaks, says Reuters.

As recently as this weekend, nationwide demonstrations have protested the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, according to Reuters. Critics say that Bolsonaro tried to save the economy more than than he tried to save their lives only to fail at both, reports The New York Times.