Brazil was leaping towards a grim milestone of 100,000 deaths from Covid-19 on Saturday, and five months after the first reported case the country was showing no signs of crushing the disease.
Brazil, a nation of 210 million people, has been reporting an average of more than 1,000 daily deaths from the pandemic since late May.
The health ministry on Friday said there had been a total of 2,962,442 confirmed infections and 99,572 deaths, tolls second only to the United States.
And as in many countries, experts believe that both numbers are severe undercounts due to insufficient testing.
In a tribute to Covid-19 victims, the non-governmental group Rio de Paz placed crosses and a thousand red balloons on the sand on the famed Copacabana beach.
“It’s very sad. Those 100,000 represent various families, friends, parents, children”, said Marcio Silva, 55, who lost his children in the pandemic and joined the tribute.
One poster read: “100 thousand: Why are we the second country in number of deaths?”
At the end of the tribute, members of the NGO released the balloons, which sailed into the sky.
President Jair Bolsonaro, who himself reported being infected, has been a consistent sceptic about the impact of the disease and an advocate of lifting restrictions on the economy that had been imposed by state governors trying to combat it.
He has frequently mingled in crowds, sometimes without a mask.
“I regret all the deaths, it’s already reaching the number 100,000, but we are going to find a way out of that”, Mr Bolsonaro said in a Thursday night Facebook transmission.