SAO PAULO, Brazil

Medical charity group Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) warned on Thursday of a “humanitarian catastrophe” in Brazil in the face of the federal government’s “failed COVID-19 response.”

The refusal of President Jair Bolsonaro’s administration to implement coordinated and effective actions resulted in “an escalation of preventable deaths,” according to MSF, which is also known as Doctors Without Borders.

Brazil has registered more than 362,200 coronavirus-related deaths, with more than 13.7 million cases.

Bolsonaro has been immersed in a negation campaign and advocated against the use of masks and urged the opening of businesses.

He has underestimated the severity of the pandemic, vaccines as a way out of the crisis and participated in agglomerations, which has drawn criticism across Brazil.

“These staggering figures are clear evidence of the authorities’ failure to manage the health and humanitarian crises in the country and protect Brazilians, especially the most vulnerable, from the virus,” MSF said in a statement.

It said Brazil lacks an effective, centralized, and coordinated response from public authorities to deal with the pandemic.

“After accounting for over a quarter of global COVID-19 deaths last week, Brazil does not have an effective plan in place to deal with the pandemic,” it said.

It also warned of politicizing the pandemic with the government refusing to “adopt science-based measures to try to bring it under control.”

The group urged authorities to “immediately convene a centralised and coordinated response to COVID-19.”

“Brazilian authorities have overseen the unmitigated spread of COVID-19”, MSF’s International President Christos Christou said at a news conference earlier. “Their refusal to adapt evidence-based public health measures has sent too many to an early grave. The response in Brazil needs an urgent, science-based reset.”

MSF Brazil, which traditionally operates on the northern border with Venezuela, dealing with the influx of immigrants and refugees, had to set up responses to the pandemic to serve socially vulnerable people, such as the homeless and residents in shelters. The organization’s actions in cities such as Sao Paulo are unprecedented in the country.

MSF’s General Director Meinie Nicolai said the response to the virus “needs to start in the community, not the ICU.”

“Not only must medical supplies like oxygen, sedatives and PPE reach where they are needed, but the wearing of masks, physical distancing, strict hygiene measures and the restriction of non-essential movement and activities must be promoted and implemented in the community in accordance with the local epidemiological situation,” he said.

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