Brazil’s president, presiding over one of the world’s worst COVID-19 outbreaks, tells people to ‘stop whining’

Brazil coronavirus
People mourning a relative during a mass burial of coronavirus victims in Manaus, Brazil, last May. Andre Coelho/Getty Images
  • Brazil’s president has told people to “stop whining” as the country’s COVID-19 numbers surge.
  • Many badly hit countries have been controlling the virus, but Brazil saw record deaths this week.
  • Bolsonaro has downplayed the virus and spread misinformation throughout the pandemic.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Brazil’s populist president has told people to “stop whining” as he presides over one of the world’s worst COVID-19 outbreaks.

President Jair Bolsonaro addressed crowds Thursday in the Brazilian capital of Rio de Janeiro, where according to the BBC he said: “Stop whining. How long are you going to keep crying about it?”

“How much longer will you stay at home and close everything?” he added. “No one can stand it anymore. We regret the deaths, again, but we need a solution.”

Jair Bolsonaro
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro in Brasilia, Brazil, on February 24. EVARISTO SA/AFP via Getty Images

Brazil has recorded the world’s second-highest death toll from the coronavirus, with 260,970 people dead as of Friday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

It also has recorded the third-most cases globally, with more than 10,793,000 people having tested positive. Only the US and India have reported higher numbers.

Brazil coronavirus
Relatives of Neide Rodrigues, 71, who died of COVID-19, mourning in May in Rio de Janeiro. Buda Mendes/Getty Images

But unlike many of the other worst-hit countries, Brazil isn’t seeing a current decline in its cases.

The daily number of cases reported in the US has generally been falling since a peak in January:

US coronavirus cases
Daily new coronavirus cases in the US as of Thursday. Worldometer

In India, the number of daily reported cases has ticked up slightly in the past few days but overall has been trending downward since September:

India Coronavirus cases March 2021
Daily new coronavirus cases in India as of Thursday. Worldometer

In Brazil, there hasn’t been any similar drop:

Brazil coronavirus cases March 2021
Daily new coronavirus cases in Brazil as of Wednesday. Worldometer

On the day Bolsonaro was speaking, Brazil recorded its second-highest number of single-day deaths of the pandemic: 1,699, second only to the 1,910 recorded the day before, the BBC reported.

Bolsonaro has downplayed the virus throughout the pandemic, spreading misinformation and at one point claiming Brazilians were immune.

He has endorsed medicines that have been proved not to work against the virus and encouraged lockdown protests.

The country at times has dug mass graves for its coronavirus dead, with bodies pictured on the streets.

Brazil coronavirus
Coffins being buried in Manaus, Brazil, last April. MICHAEL DANTAS/AFP via Getty Images

João Doria, the governor of the state of São Paulo, spoke with the BBC after Bolsonaro’s comments Thursday, calling the president “a crazy guy” who attacks “governors and mayors who want to buy vaccines and help the country to end this pandemic.”

“How can we face the problem, seeing people die every day?” he said. “The health system in Brazil is on the verge of collapse.”

Brazil is also threatened by a variant of the virus that is thought to be more contagious and to have originated in the city of Manaus.

The variant may also infect people who have already had the virus, researchers say.

Early in the pandemic, campaigners warned that Brazil’s outbreak could become a “genocide” for the country’s indigenous people, who saw a higher death rate than the rest of the population. Bolsonaro’s environmental policies had already affected their fragile societies.

Brazil coronavirus
Satere-mawe indigenous men navigating the Ariau river in Brazil’s Amazonas state in May. RICARDO OLIVEIRA/AFP via Getty Images

Bolsonaro has looked to reduce environmental protections, including reallocating land pledged to indigenous tribes and promising during his election campaign to build a highway through the Amazon rainforest and power plants within it.