Brazil’s daily COVID-19 deaths cut 1,000 as Supreme Court opens door to mandatory vaccines

RIO DE JANEIRO, (Reuters) – Brazil recorded over 1,000 new COVID-19 deaths for the first time in over three months yesterday, as its Supreme Court ruled that vaccinations in South America could be needed.

Brazil, which has the second most deadly cause in the world behind the United States, reported 1,092 coronavirus deaths and 69,826 confirmed new cases, as a second wave that has been gaining steam since mid-month November grew increasingly serious.

It was the highest death toll since September 15, when the country reported 1,115 deaths. The pandemic has now claimed 184,827 Brazilian lives, and over 7 million infections.

An appetite for a wide lockdown seems limited in Brazil, which has pockets of severe poverty. But a Brazilian Supreme Court justice issued an order requiring bars and restaurants in Sao Paulo, the nation’s most populous province, to stop serving alcohol after 8 pm.

The court also ruled that Brazil could be “required, but not compelled” by civil authorities to be vaccinated. The specific enforcement mechanisms allowed by the order were not immediately clear, but Supreme Court Justice Ricardo Lewandowski wrote in the majority judgment that individuals who refuse to take vaccines could face penalties, such as the inability to engage in certain activities or to some locations often.

Brazil’s right-wing president Jair Bolsonaro, who has often played with the severity of the pandemic, has repeatedly said that he will not take any vaccine and that ordinary Brazilians would not be required to do so, a position that puts him in the violation with the court.

Earlier in the day, in frustration with Brazil’s efforts to combat the pandemic, Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello said Pfizer Inc was having difficulty obtaining approval for its vaccine in Brazil. He said he was told by the Pfizer executive that the approval process is proving more onerous than expected in Brazil.