BRAZIL’s soaring Covid death toll has been slammed as “genocide” as chilling pictures show scores of gravediggers working through the night to bury thousands of victims.
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Brazil hit the grim figure as leaders pledged a vaccination goal of one million shots a day to put the brakes on the snowballing crisis.
The country has become the global epicentre of Covid deaths, with 303,726 fatalities. It means one in four global deaths is currently a Brazilian.
The outbreak is reaching its worst stage in the country, fanned by a feeble vaccine rollout, a rampant new variant and a lack of restrictions.
Former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva launched a scathing attack on President Jair Bolsonaro on Friday, saying Brazil’s Covid death toll amounts to the “biggest genocide” in the country’s history.
“On Tuesday, 3,158 people died of Covid in Brazil. It’s the biggest genocide in our history,” Lula told Germany’s Der Spiegel weekly, adding that Bolsonaro had lied to the Brazilian people about the pandemic.
“We must save Brazil from Covid-19,” the former president added, saying that “Brazil will not withstand it if this man continues to govern in this way”.
He previously blasted Bolsonaro’s “moronic” and “uncivilised” handling of the crisis.
The country recorded another 97,586 new cases on Thursday – a record high – according to G1.
And chilling images show mass burials taking place under the cover of night as gravediggers struggle to keep up.
The record number of fatalities comes as hospitals are on the brink of collapse as the mutant P1 strain causes a second wave much deadlier than the first.
According to The Jornal Nacional, intensive care units are buckling under the pressure from the staggering number of Covid patients.
Figures show 6,370 patients are waiting for ICU beds across Brazil – the equivalent to 12 of the largest passenger planes in the world.
“This means the collapse of the health system – this means we have reached the limit,” Carlos Lula, President of the National Council of Health Secretaries, said.
“This will mean that we will lose patients on the waiting list, who will not have a chance to access an ICU bed to try to save their lives.
Lula added: “It is exactly the opposite of what the constitution preaches, which says that health is a right of all and a duty of the state.
“If the ministry does not take urgent measures in the next few hours… we will no longer be talking about 3,000 dead, we may be talking about 4,000 dead.”
The scale of the crisis is placing fresh pressure on Bolsonaro, who has won international notoriety for his efforts to block lockdown measures, sow doubts over vaccines and push unproven cures.
On Tuesday, Bolsonaro gave a televised address in which he defended his handling of the pandemic, and pledged to deliver more vaccines.
But his comments were jeered by angry pot-banging protests across the country.
On Wednesday, he said the government would coordinate with state governors and launched weekly meetings to discuss coronavirus-fighting measures.
Earlier this month, Bolsonaro told people to “stop whining”, adding: “How long are you going to keep crying about it?”
‘COULD STILL GET MUCH WORSE’
But the situation in Brazil “will be very difficult” for the next few weeks.
“The outlook for the coming weeks will be very difficult,” former Health Minister Nelson Teich told Reuters.
“Our vaccination program is slow.”
Teich said he thought the situation in Brazil could still “get much worse”.
“The disease is now dictating its own evolution, because we are not able to control it,” he said.
More than 14 million Brazilians have had their first dose of a Covid vaccine, according to data compiled by G1, but this only represents 6.65 per cent of the population.
Meanwhile, the federal health ministry is also facing accusations of trying to manipulate death data.
São Paulo state Health Secretary Jean Gorinchteyn has accused the ministry of “bureaucratizing” the process of registering Covid deaths by requiring identity documents.
The health ministry came under fire last year after stopping the publication of Covid data on its website, before the decision was ordered overturned by the supreme court.
The ministry said in a statement later on Wednesday that it had suspended the more rigorous documentary requirements.