New Brazil protests demand President Bolsonaro's removal over COVID-19 response

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Hundreds of people took part Sunday in fresh protests across Brazil against President Jair Bolsonaro's handling of the coronavirus pandemic, with many demanding his resignation or impeachment.

Covid-19 has claimed more than 223,000 lives in Brazil, second only to the United States, where more than 440,000 have died.

Visit our dedicated coronavirus site here for all the latest updates.

Some 200 people gathered in central Brasilia, holding signs and banners saying "Bolsonaro Out" and "Impeachment Now," while scores of autos drove slowly by, honking their horns in support.

The protests, like larger ones last weekend, were organized by leftist parties and groups.

One group stood Sunday before the National Congress building, wearing plastic bags over their heads to symbolize the Covid-19 patients in the northern state of Amazonas who died after hospitals ran out of oxygen -- a problem also seen in neighboring Para and Roraima states.

Bolsonaro has repeatedly played down the gravity of the pandemic, calling it a "little flu" and minimizing the importance of mask-wearing and social distancing.

"The result of this mismanagement is more than 220,000 Covid deaths," Ruth Venceremos, an LGBTQ activist taking part in the protest, told AFP. "Enough with Bolsonaro -- impeachment now!"

Anti-Bolsonaro protests also took place in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.

The health system in Manaus, the capital of Amazonas state, was near collapse in mid-January after a surge in Covid-19 cases and a shortage of oxygen supplies forced hospitals to transfer more than 350 patients to nearby states.

Some experts say the crisis was aggravated by the emergence of a new, more transmissible variant of the virus.

But that has not spared Bolsonaro from heavy criticism over a vaccination program that began only two weeks ago with an initial supply of just 12.8 million vaccine doses for a population of 212 million.

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