RIO DE JANEIRO—The Brazilian government's "failed response" to the pandemic led to thousands of otherwise avoidable deaths and created a humanitarian catastrophe that is still playing out, aid group Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said on Thursday.
Brazil's COVID-19 outbreak is the deadliest in the world after the United States and is currently leading in average daily mortalities. Last week more than a quarter of all global deaths were in Brazil.
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A brutal second wave has hospitals saying they are running short of crucial drugs for intubating patients and most Brazilian states report that intensive care units are at or near capacity.
Right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro has opposed lockdowns, and has held large events in which he often does not wear a mask. He has only recently embraced vaccines as a possible solution.
"More than one year into the COVID-19 pandemic, the failed response in Brazil has caused a humanitarian catastrophe," said Christos Christou, a medical doctor and president of MSF, sometimes called Doctors Without Borders in English.
"Each week there is a grim new record of deaths and infections - the hospitals are overflowing and yet there is still no coordinated centralized response," Christou said in a briefing with reporters, adding the situation was expected to become even worse in the weeks ahead.
Bolsonaro has openly fought against state and local governments seeking to institute lockdowns, saying Brazilians need to get on with normal life and that job losses are more dangerous than the virus.
MSF Director-General Meinie Nicolai said the surge in cases cannot be blamed only on the contagious Brazilian COVID-19 variant, known as P.1.
"The P.1 variant is certainly a problem, but this doesn't explain the situation in Brazil," she said. (Reporting by Pedro Fonseca in Rio de Janeiro Writing by Jake Spring Editing by Matthew Lewis)