INTERNATIONAL

COVID-19 : Brazil Hits 500,000 Deaths

The number of deaths related to COVID-19 has passed 500,000 in Brazil, the second-highest in the world, as experts say the outbreak could worsen amid slow vaccination and the start of Winter.

The virus continues to spread as President Jair Bolsonaro refuses to back measures like social distancing.

The Health Institute Fiocruz says the situation is "Critical". Only 15% of adults are fully vaccinated.

Congress is investigating the government's handling of the pandemic.

President Bolsonaro has been heavily criticized for not implementing a co-ordinate national response and for his skepticism toward vaccines, lockdowns and mask-wearing requirements, which he has sought to loosen.

The opposition accuses the president of delaying the purchase of vaccines for political reasons, as he has consistently played down the severity of the pandemic.

The outbreak in Brazil has been fuelled by more transmissible variants of the virus, including the one first identified in the Amazon region and now known as gamma. An average of 70,000 cases has been confirmed daily in the last week.