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Bolsonaro threatens WHO exit as Covid-19 kills 'a Brazilian per minute'

Reuters/AFP/Brasilia
Filed on June 6, 2020
President Jair Bolsonaro, threatens, pull, Brazil, out, World Health Organization, coronavirus, Covid-19
Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro rides a horse during a meeting with supporters protesting in his favour, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Brasilia, Brazil May 31, 2020.

(Reuters)

Brazilian President continues to argue for quickly lifting state isolation orders, arguing that the economic costs outweigh public health risks.

President Jair Bolsonaro threatened on Friday to pull Brazil out of the World Health Organization after the U.N. agency warned governments about the risk of lifting lockdowns before slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus.

A new Brazilian record for daily Covid-19 fatalities pushed Brazil's death toll past that of Italy late on Thursday, but Bolsonaro continues to argue for quickly lifting state isolation orders, arguing that the economic costs outweigh public health risks.

In an editorial running the length of newspaper Folha de S.Paulo's front page, the Brazilian daily highlighted that just 100 days had passed since Bolsonaro described the virus now "killing a Brazilian per minute" as "a little flu."

"While you were reading this, another Brazilian died from the coronavirus," the newspaper said.

Brazil's Health Ministry reported late on Thursday that confirmed cases in the country had climbed past 600,000 and 1,437 deaths had been registered within 24 hours, the third consecutive daily record. The nation reported another 1,005 deaths Friday night and 30,830 new cases over the last 24 hours.

The Latin American nation has now registered 35,026 total coronavirus deaths and 645,771 confirmed cases.

With more than 35,000 lives lost, the pandemic has killed more people in Brazil than anywhere outside of the United States and the United Kingdom.

Asked about efforts to loosen social distancing orders in Brazil despite rising daily death rates and diagnoses, World Health Organization (WHO) spokeswoman Margaret Harris said a key criteria for lifting lockdowns was slowing transmission.

"The epidemic, the outbreak, in Latin America is deeply, deeply concerning," she told a news conference in Geneva. Among six key criteria for easing quarantines, she said, "one of them is ideally having your transmission declining."

In comments to journalists later Friday, Bolsonaro said Brazil will consider leaving the WHO unless it ceases to be a "partisan political organization."

 

"I'm telling you right now, the United States left the WHO, and we're studying that, in the future. Either the WHO works without ideological bias, or we leave, too," the far-right leader, a President Donald Trump admirer, told journalists outside the presidential palace.

Trump, an ideological ally of Bolsonaro, said last month that the United States would end its own relationship with the WHO, accusing it of becoming a puppet of China, where the coronavirus first emerged.

Bolsonaro's dismissal of the coronavirus risks to public health and efforts to lift state quarantines have drawn criticism from across the political spectrum in Brazil, where some accuse him of using the crisis to undermine democratic institutions.

But many of those critics are divided about the safety and effectiveness of anti-government demonstrations in the middle of a pandemic, especially after one small protest was met with an overwhelming show of police force last weekend.


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