President Bolsonaro of Brazil can now count himself as one of the victims of the dreaded coronavirus. Bolsonaro styles himself as the Donald Trump of South America.
Like Donald Trump, Bolsonaro has denied the severity of the coronavirus. He has held campaign style rallies without wearing a mask in the midst of the pandemic.
Mr. Bolsonaro, like the erratic US President, has touted the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine as a drug against Covid-19 even as many studies have shown that the drug is not effective.
In fact, several studies have shown that hydroxychloroquine may even be dangerous.
Hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malaria drug was first made famous by Donald Trump after he called it a very effective treatment for the coronavirus.
After falling ill from the coronavirus, Bolsonaro shared a video of himself gulping what he said was his third dose of hydroxychloroquine pills. He claimed he was still standing thanks to the drug.
While the use of hydroxychloroquine is widespread in Brazil and a significant part of South America, it does not appear the drug has done much to change the trajectory of daily infections and deaths.
In Brazil alone, more than 2 million people have been infected by the coronavirus with close to 80,000 deaths. These figures are only second to that of the United States where Covid-19 deaths are projected to reach 200,000 by the end of October.
The figures are particularly worrisome in Brazil because the region has a large indegenous population who typically do not have immunity to imported diseases.
For Brazil’s estimated 896,000 indigenous people who live in the Amazon region, the nearest hospital is typically days away. Access to these hospitals that offer limited care is only by boat.
Indegenous communities also have higher rates of anemia, obesity and malnutrition than the rest of the population - all risk factors for severe Covid-19 infection.
So far, 12000 infections and 400 deaths have been reported amongst Brazil's indegenous community. If current infection trends hold, the situation could be dire for the Amazonian Yanomami people. Estimates hold that 40% of their entire population could become infected with the coronavirus.
Besides Brazil, Peru comes next with 346000 infected and more than 12000 deaths. In just a period of 24 hours, Peru logged a record of 6,154 new cases. This sudden increase prompted its virus response coordinator Pilar Mazzetti to warn that "difficult days, difficult weeks are coming."
The situation was so intense that some worried relatives who stood outside the Sabogal Hospital in the capital Lima were prevented from seeing their loved ones.
The fearful situation pushed many to beg the guards for information about how their family members, friends, or loved ones were doing.
Liset Villanueva, granddaughter of a coronavirus patient said, “I want to talk to a doctor and they don’t let me know.” "They don't say anything, they don't call, they don't explain anything… What is he suffering from?”
The rapidly increasing rate of infection in South America has generated tremendous fear. The region has overtaken the US as the new hotspot of Covid-19.
While many South American countries with disturbing Covid-19 figures have resorted to shutdowns, Bolsonaro stands out as the one regional president pushing for zero shutdown. For Bolsonaro, it is all about the economy and business.
Mr. Bolsonaro, like Trump, is still in constant confrontation with local government officials who have authorized closures in order to contain the currently out of control pandemic.
Experts have warned that lockdown in some form will remain necessary until a vaccine or treatment for the coronavirus pandemic is found.