Monday, 27th March 2023
Breaking News:

Bolsonaro support linked to higher Covid death rates: Brazil study

Counties that voted for Brazil's pandemic-skeptic President Jair Bolsonaro had substantially higher Covid-19 death rates than those that didn't, the authors of a new study said Thursday.

(FILES) In this file photo Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro speaks during the ‘Socio-environmental Actions and Adherence to the Adopt a Park Programme’ event at Planalto Palace in Brasilia, on May 12, 2021. – Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has seen happier days: his poll numbers have plunged, his nemesis Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is looming large and the Senate is investigating his chaotic handling of Covid-19. What to do?<br />First: Hop on his trusty blue motorcycle and lead a huge rally of fellow far-right bikers, as he did last May 9, 2021. Second: Ride in on horseback to fire up a demo of conservative farmers, as he reportedly plans to do May 15, 2021.That rally’s organizers have called for conservative “soldiers” to protest the “craziness” of pandemic stay-at-home measures and Brazil’s Supreme Court, which allowed local authorities to impose such policies over Bolsonaro’s objections. (Photo by Sergio Lima / AFP)

Counties that voted for Brazil’s pandemic-skeptic President Jair Bolsonaro had substantially higher Covid-19 death rates than those that didn’t, the authors of a new study said Thursday.

The study, which compared voting results in Brazil’s 2018 presidential election in the southeastern state of Minas Gerais with county-level Covid-19 infection and mortality rates, found the disease hit harder in areas that voted for the far-right president, who has regularly clashed with expert advice on fighting the pandemic.

“Bolsonaro has denied Covid-19 severity, promoted treatments without evidence of efficacy, and discouraged social distancing, the use of masks, local lockdowns and other protective measures,” said co-author Carlos Starling of the Minas Gerais Society of Infectious Disease Specialists.

That “has likely resulted in higher infection rates and deaths from Covid-19 among his supporters,” he added in a statement.

The study, which analyzed data from January 21 to November 10 last year, found infection rates were 30 percent higher in counties where then-candidate Bolsonaro won in 2018 — 7,600 per 100,000 inhabitants, on average.

Death rates were 60 percent higher there, it found — 212 per 100,000, on average.

Covid-19 has claimed more than 660,000 lives in Brazil, second only to the United States in absolute numbers.

However, the weekly death toll has fallen dramatically with 75 percent of Brazil’s 213 million people now fully vaccinated — despite repeated anti-vaccine comments from Bolsonaro.

Starling and bioinformatics expert Braulio Couto will present the still-unpublished study this month at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases in Lisbon, whose selection committee peer-reviewed their findings.

It echoed the results of a similar study published in March in medical journal The Lancet, which compared Brazil’s 2018 election results nationwide with Covid-19 death rates and also found counties that voted for Bolsonaro fared worse in the pandemic.

Bolsonaro, who comes up for reelection in October, has faced damaging criticism over his handling of the virus he dismissed as a “little flu.” A Senate commission last October recommended he face criminal charges, including crimes against humanity, for his response to the pandemic.

The government did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the study.

In this article