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Brazil hits 700,000 virus deaths, 2nd highest in the world

A Brazilian flag hangs on a cross as part of a tribute by the NGO, Rio de Paz, to the late Marcio Antonio do Nascimento Silva and the victims of COVID-19 on Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2022. Silva, who died of a heart attack on Oct. 3, lost his 25-year-old son Hugo do Nascimento to the pandemic in April 2020, when he became known for placing crosses on the beach to honor his son and other pandemic victims. (AP Photo/Bruna Prado) A Brazilian flag hangs on a cross as part of a tribute by the NGO, Rio de Paz, to the late Marcio Antonio do Nascimento Silva and the victims of COVID-19 on Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2022. Silva, who died of a heart attack on Oct. 3, lost his 25-year-old son Hugo do Nascimento to the pandemic in April 2020, when he became known for placing crosses on the beach to honor his son and other pandemic victims. (AP Photo/Bruna Prado)
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SAO PAULO -

Brazil's government on Tuesday reported the 700,000th death from COVID-19 in the South American nation, which has the second most victims of the virus after the United States.

Brazilian health experts say most people dying of COVID-19 in recent days are either unvaccinated or suffer from other debilitating diseases.

"The vaccine currently available in every health care unit in Brazil could have changed the lives of families who lost beloved ones in the pandemic," said the country's Health Ministry

Health Minister Nisia Trindade criticized former President Jair Bolsonaro for his handling of the pandemic. Bolsonaro, who became ill with COVID, later declined to take the coronavirus vaccine and flouted health restrictions.

"We have to look at the past, but at the same time we have to say the health ministry cannot make the mistake of not coordinating, not taking care, not treating (the disease). We need to be united so new tragedies do not happen," Trindade said.

Miguel Lago, executive director of Brazil's Institute for Health Policy Studies, which advises public health officials, said the figure is a reminder of the country's obligation to punish those who failed to act against the virus or sabotaged those who were trying.

"There was direct responsibility of public agents, who could have answered to this in a much better fashion," Lago told The Associated Press.

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