Confronting photo of 'graves' on beach highlights nation's virus plight

It’s a harrowing scene now synonymous with one of the world’s biggest coronavirus outbreaks.

Images of makeshift graveyards filling vast areas of Brazil’s major cities dominate media reports as the nation struggles to cope with the sheer number of deaths from COVID-19.

And now rows of graves have been dug on the nation’s most famous beach to symbolise the horrific death toll in Brazil from the coronavirus outbreak.

On Thursday (local time), dozens of volunteers dug 100 graves on Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro.

An activist digs symbolic graves on Copacabana beach, in front of a soccer goalpost, during a protest organized by the NGO Rio de Paz against the government's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Thursday, June 11, 2020. A Brazilian Supreme Court justice ordered the government of President Jair Bolsonaro to resume publication of full COVID-19 data, including the cumulative death toll, following allegations the government was trying to hide the severity of the pandemic in Latin America’s biggest country. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)
An activist digs symbolic graves on Copacabana beach in front of soccer goals. Source: AP

On Friday, Brazil’s death toll stood just shy of 41,000 and was expected to overtake the UK by the weekend to become the highest behind the US in terms of the most COVID-19 deaths.

The Copacabana grave digging was also to denounce what they called the "incompetence" of public authorities handling the pandemic.

Ten rows of holes were dug in the sand in front of the iconic Copacabana Palace hotel, and dotted with black crosses decorated with small Brazilian flags.

"The objective is to protest against the succession of errors made by the federal government in handling the humanitarian crisis that Brazil is suffering," the NGO Rio de Paz, established to combat violence in the city, said on Twitter.

Activists in costume dig symbolic graves on Copacabana beach as a protest, organized by the NGO Rio de Paz, against the government's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Thursday, June 11, 2020. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)
The protest transformed world-famous Copacabana beach into a graveyard. Source: AP

The visual effect is reminiscent of images from locations around the world where the coronavirus has hastened the digging of fresh graves – particularly in the Amazonian city of Manaus in Brazil's north.

"Here we have reproduced, in this postcard Rio setting, what we see in our cemeteries," Antonio Carlos Costa, president of Rio de Paz, told AFP.

"We are here to demand a change of attitude from the president of the republic, who must understand that our nation is facing the most difficult moment in its history," he said. "This pandemic has exacerbated social injustices and the incompetence of public powers."

Far-right President Jair Bolsonaro has repeatedly downplayed the pandemic's scale, calling COVID-19 "a flu."

While Bolsonaro advocates for the resumption of economic activity, the virus continues to spread in the country, where more than 800,000 people have been infected, out of a population of over 210 million.

Back on Copacabana Beach, a Bolsonaro supporter tore up some of the crosses, while others insulted members of the NGO.

A video posted by Rio de Paz on Twitter shows a father whose 25-year-old son had died of coronavirus putting a cross back in place and shouting "respect our pain!"

with AFP

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