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Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro once again disregarded public health advice amid the coronavirus pandemic on Sunday to snap photos with lockdown protesters, as the country’s largest city of São Paulo struggles to keep its healthcare system afloat with public hospitals at 90 percent capacity.
Bolsonaro, who’s received widespread criticism both domestically and abroad for urging Brazilians to get back to work during the pandemic, mingled with supporters in a crowd in Brasilia, the national capital, on Sunday. Wearing a mask, and flanked by ministers and security guards, he posed for photos with at least three young children, Reuters reported.
This came before the mayor of São Paulo, Brazil’s largest city home to about 12 million people, said Monday the city’s healthcare system is on the verge of collapse and public hospitals in the city stand at 90 percent capacity.
On Saturday, Brazil surpassed both Italy and Spain in total confirmed coronavirus cases to become the fourth-most infected nation in the world. Brazil, as of Monday, recorded more than 241,000 confirmed cases, with at least 16,118 deaths.
Mayor Bruno Covas accused those who flouted social distancing mandates imposed on the state of Sao Paulo nearly two months ago of playing “Russian roulette” with people’s lives, the BBC reported.
He said he’s in talks with the governor of São Paulo state, João Doria, who controls the police force, to discuss enforcing stricter lockdown measures to keep people home and nonessential businesses closed.
"It is hard to believe that some prefer the population to be subjected to Russian roulette. Indifference in the face of death is unseemly,” Covas said, adding that the city needed to “slow down even more.”
Nationwide testing in Brazil has moved slower than in Europe, meaning the virus could be more widespread than what figures indicate. The Brazilian Health Ministry said nearly 338,000 novel coronavirus tests had been processed in official labs by the beginning of last week, with an additional 145,000 tests under analysis, Reuters reported.
Bolsonaro approached his supporters outside the presidential palace in Brasilia Sunday waving and smiling as they protested lockdown measures, the country’s Supreme Court, and the president of the chamber of deputies Rodrigo Maia.
His appearance came after the second health minister to resign in a month stepped down Friday after clashing with Bolsonaro on the country's coronavirus response.
Nelson Teich stepped down as health minister Friday after Bolosnaro pushed to lift lockdown measures and the widespread use of the drug chloroquine to treat the virus without further testing.