Brazil's Bolsonaro downplays Omicron, says its a 'welcome' variant
Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro downplayed the Omicron coronavirus variant amid a rise in hard-hit Brazil, ruling out further containment measures while defending herd immunity through widespread illness.
Even as experts warn of increased pressure on hospitals, Bolsonaro argued the emergence of the Omicron variety posed no threat in the country with the world's second-highest Covid-19 mortality toll.
Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro said the omicron strain that’s causing a surge in COVID cases at home and abroad could be called a "vaccine virus" and is a "welcome" variant.
In an interview with the Gazeta Brasil website, Bolsonaro said Wednesday that "some studious and serious people" (not linked to pharmaceutical companies) say that omicron is welcome and can in fact signal the end of the pandemic," Bolsonaro said Wednesday in an interview with Gazeta Brasil website.
Despite the fact that more than 600,000 Brazilians have died from the virus in the last two years, Bolsonaro has become known throughout the world for his stubborn posture in the face of the pandemic, repeatedly referring to it as "a little flu."
The president, who is running for re-election this year, has been defending his anti-vaccine stance.
Even when omicron made landfall in the country, causing cases to spike above 70,000 per day, he swore not to allow his daughter to take the shot and promised to continue fighting lockdowns.
For the majority of December, daily infections rarely exceeded 10,000.
However, while hospitalisations have increased in recent weeks in Brazil, there hasn't been an influx of patients needing intensive care units like there was in mid-2021, when vaccinations were widely accessible.
It's a pattern that's been witnessed in countries ranging from Argentina to South Africa to Denmark, and it's prompted a shift in how certain governments address the pandemic.
Despite the variant's apparent milder consequences, medical experts caution that due of how quickly it spreads, it might still overburden hospitals and health systems.
In several locations, including the United Kingdom, the United States, and Brazil, Omicron has become the prevalent variety.