Brazil left divided as President Bolsonaro's coronavirus response splits country

  • By ITV News Correspondent Juliet Bremner

Brazil is a country divided. Some of its biggest cities have been locked down for months while the President is urging people to get back to work. The arguments and insults continue as the numbers killed by the virus continue to rise and hospitals warn they are at breaking point.

I watched the divisions play out beside Rio de Janeiro’s iconic Copacabana Beach. Supporters of President Jair Bolsonaro defending his repeated attempts to ignore Covid-19 and carry on as normal while families observing the lockdown in their apartments leaned out of windows to bang their pots and pans in disapproval at his policies.

Beaches are empty in Brazil. Credit: ITV News

The tourist sites of Rio are closed, so are the beaches, shops, restaurants and hotels, but it hasn’t stopped the virus spreading.

Despite this, the state Governor has decided that a tentative relaxation of the rules can begin from Tuesday with restaurants and cafes allowed to sell takeaways from their premises.

  • Drone footage shows the situation on Brazil's streets

In Sao Paulo, the public hospitals are so overstretched the city government has built temporary field or “combat” hospitals. On the day we visited, a 43-year-old man was rushed into the emergency room struggling to breathe and immediately sedated and put onto a ventilator.

Doctors are warning that the drugs they need to carry out this procedure are in dangerously short supply. They have enough for the next three weeks but say they can’t get any more.

Dr Anna Camargo, who works in field hospital in Sao Paolo, told ITV News: "Now they have to do something now; I think the politicians have to do more - don’t close their eyes and say it is a little flu, it is not."

  • Dr Anna Camargo

The family of a nurse, who died from coronavirus, told ITV News they consider she was “murdered”.

It may sound an extreme language but they claim 63-year-old mother of four Cidinha Duarte was forced to work despite having diabetes and high blood pressure. Eight members of her family were infected and her son faces months of rehabilitation after spending 32 days intubated and unconscious in intensive care.

To make matters even worse the number of infections and deaths is probably far higher than recorded. There are virtually no tests being carried out and no plans to roll out a testing programme.

So while Bolsonaro and his supporters agitate to get the economy moving again, the World Health Organization believes Brazil may not reach the peak of it’s epidemic until the end of June.