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‘World’s highest death rate’: Brazil’s nurses protest as fatalities mount

Nurses in Brasilia stage a protest on Tuesday, May 13, 2020.
Nurses in Brasilia stage a protest on Tuesday, May 13, 2020. © AFP / FRANCE 24

Nurses in Brazil held a vigil Tuesday for fallen colleagues and raise awareness of the dangers they face on the frontlines of the Covid-19 pandemic. The country has the highest death rate among nurses of anywhere in the world, according to its nursing body COFEN, with 98 fatalities in a single month.

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Protesters in Sao Paulo and Brasilia lit candles and laid crosses in memory of nurses who have died from Covid-19 and held aloft the names of their deceased colleagues, in a demonstration that coincided with International Nurses Day.

"It's very emotional. There is no way for us to live through what we are experiencing,” Nurse Leidijany Paz told AFP.

“We leave home and do not know if we will be able to return home, because if I have symptoms I cannot go home, I have to isolate myself outside my own home. Many of my colleagues sleep in separate rooms, they do not hug their children."

Medical workers have blamed the country’s high death rate among hospital staff on a lack of personal protective equipment.

But Brazil’s right-wing president Jair Bolsonaro has also been heavily criticised for downplaying the crisis even as deaths surge.

On Monday, Bolsonaro sought to ease the country’s lockdown restrictions by allowing gyms and hair salons to re-open.

A day later, the country reported its highest ever daily death toll with 881 new fatalities.

"We want to call attention to the importance of social isolation,” said Paz, “and a return to activities in a calm manner because this will translate into lives, lives not only of the community, but also of those that serve, of the health professionals."

Brazil has become a global hotspot for the virus with nearly 180,000 confirmed cases and more than 12,000 deaths.

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