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Brazil police accuse Bolsonaro of COVID-linked scaremongering

Bolsonaro gestures during the promotion ceremony of General Officers of the Armed Forces, at Planalto Palace in Brasilia, on Aug 4, 2022. (EVARISTO SA / AFP)

BRASILIA / HARARE / LISBON – Brazil's federal police on Wednesday accused President Jair Bolsonaro of discouraging mask use during the pandemic and falsely suggesting that people who got vaccinated against COVID-19 ran the risk of contracting AIDS.

In a document sent to Brazil's Supreme Court, a police delegate said Bolsonaro's effort to discourage compliance with pandemic-linked health measures amounted to a crime, while his effort to link AIDS with vaccination amounted to a misdemeanor.

The police asked Supreme Court Justice Alexandre de Moraes, who is in charge of the probe, to authorize the police to charge Bolsonaro and others involved in the case.

In a social media livestream last October, the far-right president said, without presenting any evidence, that UK government reports had shown that people fully vaccinated against COVID-19 had developed AIDS.

Bolsonaro, who has declined to take the vaccine, was temporarily suspended from both Facebook and YouTube after the comments.

The police said additional steps were needed to conclude the investigations, including hearing from Bolsonaro.

The solicitor general's office, which typically provides legal representation for the president, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Separately, Brazil's National Health Regulatory Agency (Anvisa) on Wednesday lifted the mandatory use of face masks in Brazilian airports and on flights, due to the current COVID-19 epidemiological situation.

However, Anvisa said it continues to recommend the use of face masks and social distancing as they are effective measures to mitigate the risk of disease transmission.

"Given the current situation, the use of masks that was adopted as a collective health measure will become an individual protection measure," it said.

ALSO READ: Brazil's COVID-19 woes continue as death toll tops 600,000

People wearing face masks ride the Gloria funicular in Lisbon on April 19, 2022. (ARMANDO FRANCA / AP)

Portugal

Portugal recorded an excess mortality rate of 23.9 percent in June, almost four times the European Union's average of 6.2 percent, also the highest in the EU, the EU's statistics office Eurostat reported on Wednesday.

Excess mortality is the percentage of additional deaths compared to the monthly average of deaths between 2016 and 2019, the period before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Portugal has registered a progressive increase in excess mortality since January 2021, a trend contrary to the situation in other EU countries.

The Portuguese Ministry of Health said last week it was preparing an in-depth study on the "most recent excesses of mortality" in the country that coincided with the pandemic and the extreme heat of this summer.

Local media reported earlier that 659 people in Portugal died of heat-related illnesses in the week from July 10 to 16.

Worshippers have their temperature checked before entering church on Christmas day on the outskirts of Harare, Zimbabwe on Dec 25, 2021.  (TSVANGIRAYI MUKWAZHI / AP)

Zimbabwe

The Zimbabwean government announced Tuesday that people who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 no longer need to wear face masks in public places.

Addressing a media briefing, Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said the decision had been taken due to declining COVID-19 cases in the country.

Zimbabwe has witnessed a gradual decline in COVID-19 cases and deaths since the beginning of the year, resulting in the government relaxing most COVID-19 preventive measures.

Daily cases declined by 46 percent over the past week while no deaths were recorded over the past two days, Mutsvangwa said.

"Cabinet resolved that those who have received three doses of the WHO recommended vaccines are exempted from the mandatory wearing of face masks in outdoor public places but should however wear masks in indoor public places and in public transport," Mutsvangwa said.

She said for evidence, those fully vaccinated should carry their vaccination cards all the time, while urging all provinces in the country to continue intensifying COVID-19 vaccination activities for the nation to achieve herd immunity.

As of Monday, Zimbabwe had recorded 256,561 COVID-19 cases, with 5,588 deaths and 250,733 recoveries from the disease since its outbreak in March 2020.

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