Covid Brazil: Why could Bolsonaro face charges?

By Jake Horton
BBC Reality Check

Published
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Bolsonaro flagImage source, Getty Images

A Senate panel in Brazil has backed a report recommending President Jair Bolsonaro faces charges including crimes against humanity for his response to the pandemic.

The president maintains he is "guilty of absolutely nothing".

So what has he been accused of and what has he done to respond to the outbreak?

How does Brazil's Covid record compare?

Brazil has by far the highest overall death toll in Latin America, and the second highest in the world after the US.

It also has one of the highest global death tolls as a proportion of its population - although not as high as neighbouring Peru.

What is Bolsonaro accused of?

The inquiry report, produced by Brazilian lawmakers, alleges Mr Bolsonaro pursued a policy of herd immunity - the scientific term for the point at which a population is protected by enough people having been vaccinated or developed antibodies by catching the disease.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Mourners at a burial site in Manaus - one of the worst hit cities in Brazil

It is alleged the Brazilian government let the virus rip through the country with the aim of achieving widespread immunity - which the report says led to unnecessary infections and deaths.

It describes the president as "the main person responsible for the errors committed by the federal government during the pandemic".

He is also accused of spreading misinformation about the virus.

What actions did Bolsonaro take to stop Covid spreading?

Mr Bolsonaro has said his government "did the right thing from the first moment" of the pandemic.

It closed its land borders to neighbouring countries in March 2020 to stem the outbreak but has never imposed a nationwide lockdown.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
President Bolsonaro has continued to hold rallies with supporters throughout the pandemic

If it is up to him, Mr Bolsonaro says, "Brazil will never have a lockdown" because such restrictions only make the poor poorer.

Throughout the pandemic, he has blocked local leaders' efforts to impose restrictions and called state governors and mayors who imposed lockdowns "tyrants".

He has also resisted other common public-health measures such as masks, saying they are ineffective at stopping the spread of coronavirus - although he has sometimes worn one himself after being ordered to do so by a judge in Brazil.

Mr Bolsonaro hasn't officially backed herd immunity - but his critics say the lack of public-health measures and messaging from the national government show this policy was pursued.

What has he said about treatments and vaccines?

The report also accuses Mr Bolsonaro of spreading misinformation surrounding coronavirus.

He has been sceptical about vaccines, downplayed the severity of the virus, and promoted unproven treatments.

Mr Bolsonaro has:

  • said the virus was "just a little flu"
  • cast doubts on the efficacy and safety of jabs
  • joked the Pfizer jab may "turn people into crocodiles"
  • said he would not get vaccinated and, having had Covid, was "better than vaccinated"
  • backed a "Covid kit" including unproven and potentially dangerous treatments such as hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin

Social-media platforms have removed several of Mr Bolsonaro's posts spreading misinformation throughout the pandemic - including a recent video in which the president falsely claimed a link between Covid vaccines and Aids.

What about Brazil's vaccine rollout?

Brazil has had a strong record in conducting vaccination campaigns and compared with many other countries in Latin America, it has a well established healthcare infrastructure.

But its coronavirus vaccination efforts initially lagged behind many others in the region - with critics blaming Mr Bolsonaro for being too slow to purchase doses.

It now has enough doses to vaccinate its entire population and has administered 125 doses per 100 people.

Global vaccine rollout

Scroll table
World
60
11,833,638,209
China
87
3,381,314,000
India
64
1,933,706,281
US
67
587,360,320
Brazil
78
441,054,017
Indonesia
61
401,308,016
Japan
81
280,674,544
Bangladesh
71
261,364,230
Pakistan
55
249,380,176
Vietnam
81
220,779,518
Mexico
61
206,941,649
Germany
77
179,988,058
Russia
51
167,125,605
Philippines
64
151,760,837
Iran
68
149,903,496
Turkey
62
147,734,958
France
78
144,497,698
UK
73
143,062,369
Italy
79
137,787,967
Thailand
75
136,981,091
South Korea
87
125,537,663
Argentina
82
102,801,138
Spain
87
94,734,966
Canada
82
85,441,862
Colombia
70
83,585,958
Egypt
33
82,907,695
Peru
82
74,987,855
Malaysia
83
70,939,755
Saudi Arabia
70
65,362,940
Australia
84
57,642,872
Myanmar
44
56,989,806
Chile
91
56,137,553
Taiwan
80
55,072,565
Morocco
63
54,595,032
Poland
60
54,499,346
Uzbekistan
44
50,434,421
Nigeria
8
43,994,555
Nepal
67
42,916,756
Cambodia
84
39,658,990
Sri Lanka
67
39,545,641
Venezuela
50
37,860,994
Cuba
88
37,038,176
South Africa
31
36,063,285
Ecuador
78
34,809,185
Netherlands
72
34,345,860
Ukraine
35
31,668,577
Mozambique
44
31,616,078
Ethiopia
18
29,373,478
Belgium
79
25,370,358
United Arab Emirates
97
24,874,376
Portugal
87
23,889,918
Sweden
75
22,446,165
Rwanda
64
21,917,222
Uganda
23
21,044,430
Greece
74
21,017,697
Kazakhstan
49
20,918,681
Angola
19
18,431,807
Austria
73
18,336,033
Iraq
18
18,279,217
Kenya
17
18,246,213
Israel
66
18,156,155
Czech Republic
64
17,635,168
Guatemala
34
17,435,586
Hong Kong
84
16,959,543
Romania
42
16,812,990
Hungary
64
16,530,488
Ghana
20
16,122,862
Switzerland
69
15,720,430
Dominican Republic
55
15,663,980
Algeria
15
15,205,854
Singapore
91
14,122,714
Honduras
54
13,927,995
Azerbaijan
47
13,723,446
Bolivia
50
13,644,008
Denmark
83
13,223,265
Tunisia
53
13,164,136
Belarus
64
12,807,687
Tajikistan
51
12,504,152
Ivory Coast
20
12,387,947
Finland
78
12,044,032
Zimbabwe
30
11,742,863
Norway
74
11,324,835
New Zealand
80
11,085,963
Costa Rica
81
11,017,624
Ireland
81
10,931,230
Laos
68
10,862,186
El Salvador
66
10,819,940
Nicaragua
72
10,561,352
Jordan
44
9,938,176
Paraguay
47
8,765,455
Serbia
48
8,529,217
Uruguay
83
8,399,971
Panama
71
8,216,856
Kuwait
76
8,022,755
Tanzania
6
7,967,468
Turkmenistan
48
7,140,000
Sudan
8
7,096,087
Oman
59
7,087,785
Slovakia
51
7,072,261
Qatar
89
6,885,951
Guinea
19
6,127,699
Afghanistan
12
6,118,557
Lebanon
35
5,632,093
Mongolia
65
5,492,919
Croatia
55
5,252,971
Zambia
17
5,251,671
Lithuania
70
4,485,173
Bulgaria
30
4,399,112
Syria
9
3,801,752
Palestinian Territories
34
3,721,894
Benin
21
3,619,590
Libya
16
3,460,229
Bahrain
70
3,444,799
Togo
18
3,290,821
Kyrgyzstan
20
3,103,935
Slovenia
59
2,993,761
Burkina Faso
7
2,938,655
Sierra Leone
18
2,930,408
Georgia
32
2,893,850
Latvia
70
2,890,548
Albania
43
2,840,948
Somalia
9
2,712,296
Mauritius
76
2,698,115
Niger
6
2,694,418
Mauritania
23
2,650,000
Senegal
6
2,523,856
DR Congo
1
2,431,360
Madagascar
4
2,369,775
Chad
12
2,352,921
Botswana
56
2,330,589
Malawi
6
2,166,402
Armenia
33
2,149,195
Moldova
26
2,148,116
Mali
5
2,115,108
Liberia
28
1,996,703
Estonia
64
1,990,134
Bosnia and Herzegovina
26
1,924,950
Bhutan
86
1,908,189
North Macedonia
40
1,848,141
Cameroon
4
1,836,573
Kosovo
46
1,829,189
Cyprus
72
1,784,616
Trinidad and Tobago
51
1,563,433
Timor-Leste
49
1,547,717
Fiji
70
1,469,149
Jamaica
23
1,437,876
Macau
88
1,412,074
Malta
91
1,299,815
Luxembourg
73
1,296,948
Central African Republic
21
1,185,512
Brunei
94
1,149,676
Maldives
71
942,138
Lesotho
34
933,825
Guyana
46
905,748
Yemen
1
836,455
Namibia
16
834,756
Congo
12
830,379
Iceland
79
805,469
Cape Verde
55
762,486
South Sudan
6
730,047
Gambia
14
720,000
Montenegro
45
673,785
Comoros
34
642,520
Papua New Guinea
3
587,340
Guinea-Bissau
17
562,620
Gabon
11
558,456
Eswatini
29
535,393
Suriname
40
505,699
Samoa
93
482,765
Equatorial Guinea
15
479,991
Belize
52
475,163
Solomon Islands
24
452,002
Bahamas
40
340,866
Barbados
53
315,193
Vanuatu
38
301,000
Haiti
1
280,729
Jersey
80
234,363
Sao Tome and Principe
39
208,657
Seychelles
81
201,121
Djibouti
13
191,649
Tonga
68
190,474
Isle of Man
78
189,681
Guernsey
81
155,684
Andorra
69
152,694
Kiribati
50
147,497
Cayman Islands
89
144,209
Bermuda
77
131,612
Antigua and Barbuda
62
125,605
Saint Lucia
29
120,643
Gibraltar
123
119,855
Faroe Islands
83
103,894
Grenada
34
88,604
Greenland
68
79,745
St Vincent and the Grenadines
27
70,847
Liechtenstein
69
70,683
Turks and Caicos Islands
76
69,465
San Marino
69
69,259
Dominica
42
66,709
Monaco
65
65,140
Saint Kitts and Nevis
49
60,467
British Virgin Islands
59
40,969
Cook Islands
84
39,596
Anguilla
66
23,601
Nauru
79
22,976
Burundi
0.1052
15,311
Tuvalu
52
12,528
Saint Helena
58
7,892
Falkland Islands
50
4,407
Montserrat
37
4,255
Niue
88
4,161
Tokelau
71
1,936
Pitcairn
100
94
British Indian Ocean Territory
0
0
Eritrea
0
0
North Korea
0
0
South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands
0
0
Vatican
0
0

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This is more than many countries in the region but remains behind Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay.

About 54% of people in Brazil are now fully vaccinated, compared with 67% in the UK.