Brazil's embattled leader is under fire for shocking comments he made about his country's Covid-19 crisis, as deaths skyrocket.
Hard-hit Brazil registered its deadliest day yet in the pandemic Tuesday with more than 4000 deaths and President Jair Bolsonaro's response to the tragedy has sparked fury across the nation.
"We won't cry over spilled milk," he said of the news.
Despite the growing crisis, President Bolsonaro has refused to budge from his strict anti-lockdown stance, saying it would cause more damage than the virus itself.
"We're not going to accept these policies of 'stay home, close everything, lock down,'" he said.
"There's not going to be a national lockdown. Our army isn't going into the streets to force the Brazilian people into their homes."
The far-right president has defied expert advice on containing the pandemic, criticising lockdowns, face masks and vaccines even as the virus has claimed more than 340,000 lives in Brazil – second only to the United States.
Brazil's Health Ministry registered 4195 deaths on Tuesday, becoming the third country to go above that threshold as Bolsonaro's political opponents demanded stricter measures to slow down the spread of the virus. Only the United States and Peru have had daily death tolls higher than 4000.
Sao Paulo state, Brazil's most populous with 46 million residents, registered almost 1400 deaths in the latest count. Health officials said the figure was partly due to the Easter holiday, which delayed the count.
Bolsonaro said on Wednesday in a speech in the city of Chapeco in Santa Catarina state there would be "no national lockdown," ignoring growing calls from health experts.
He also defended the use of so-called early treatment protocols, which include anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine. No scientific studies have found the drug effective to prevent or treat Covid-19.
"There is not enough vaccine today in the world. We need to find alternatives," he said.
The number of deaths in Chapeco linked to the virus has finally come down after some very difficult weeks. Intensive care units had surpassed capacity, forcing authorities to transfer infected patients to hospitals in other states.
Last month, the city implemented some restrictions on the economy for two weeks, but Bolsonaro attributed Chapeco's recent success to the use of early treatment protocols, newspaper Estadão reported.
In an open letter published Tuesday in newspaper O Globo, the Brazilian Association of Collective Health, which counts nearly 20,000 members, called for a three-week nationwide lockdown.
"The serious epidemiological situation that is leading to the collapse of the health system in several states requires the immediate adoption, without hesitation, of strict restrictive measures," the statement said.
Intensive care units in most Brazilian states have an occupation rate above 90 per cent, though figures have been stable since the past week.
Local authorities nationwide argue that numbers of cases and hospitalisations are trending downward after a week of a partial shutdown.
Miguel Lago, executive director of Brazil's Institute for Health Policy Studies, which advises public health officials, said reopening is a mistake that he fears will bring even higher death numbers, though he thinks it unlikely to be reversed.
"The fact is the anti-lockdown narrative of President Jair Bolsonaro has won," Lago told The Associated Press. "Mayors and governors are politically prohibited from beefing up social distancing policies because they know supporters of the president, including business leaders, will sabotage it."
Bolsonaro, who has long downplayed the risks of the coronavirus, remains fully against lockdowns as damaging to the economy.
Less than 3 per cent of Brazil's 210 million people have received both doses of coronavirus vaccines, according to Our World in Data, an online research site.
Over the weekend, justices of Brazil's Supreme Court started a tug of war about the reopening of religious buildings, which were closed by many local authorities despite a federal government decision to label them as part of essential services.
Some churches welcomed their faithful on Easter Sunday, but others were stopped by mayors and governors. Their reopening will be settled at the high court Wednesday, but some local councils, such as Belo Horizonte, voted Tuesday to keep religious buildings open.
Also on Tuesday a Rio de Janeiro judge allowed schools to reopen as Mayor Eduardo Paes wanted. Hours later, the mayors of Campinas and Sorocaba, two of the most populous cities in Sao Paulo state, agreed to reopen business with a drive-thru purchase system after a 10-day halt.
Professional soccer executives in Sao Paulo said they expect to play games this week after a 15-day interruption, promising local prosecutors they will follow stricter health protocols.