Fresh protests as Brazil passes 500,000 COVID deaths

On the day that Brazil surpassed 500,000 deaths from COVID-19, thousands took to the streets to express their anger at the government's handling of the pandemic.

Protests were staged on Saturday in at least 44 cities in 20 states across the country.

The protesters accuse President Jair Bolsonaro of genocide in his pandemic response and they want him out of office.

His government has refused to back social distancing measures and the country has been slow to acquire vaccines.

Pharmaceutical maker Pfizer said it got no response to early offers to sell vaccines to the government between August and November last year.

This female protester says she has lost friends and people have become orphans, fatherless, motherless and childless because of Bolsanaro.

And the outlook remains stark.

Health Ministry data shows that just 11% of Brazilians are fully vaccinated and 29% have received a first dose.

Epidemiologists warn that, with winter arriving in the southern hemisphere and new variants of the coronavirus circulating, deaths will continue to mount even if immunizations gain steam.

Intensive care units are already running close to capacity across the country.

This week, new confirmed cases in Brazil accelerated to more than 70,000 per day on average.

Brazil has the world's second highest death toll after the United States.