Over Easter, Brazil’s far-right leader repeatedly sniffed at his own health ministry’s distancing recommendations by going out for doughnuts, glad-handing fans and proclaiming: “No one will hinder my right to come and go.” During one outing, Bolsonaro was filmed wiping his nose with his wrist before shaking an elderly lady’s hand.

Specialists in public health and infectious diseases believe such behaviour is eroding the only measures standing between Brazil – which has suffered more than 1,000 Covid-19 deaths – and a healthcare calamity.

“It’s as if everybody’s on the same train heading towards a cliff-edge and someone says: ‘Look out! There’s a cliff!’ And the passengers shout: ‘Oh no there isn’t!’ And the train driver says: ‘Yeah, there’s nothing there!’” said Ivan França Junior, an epidemiologist from the University of São Paulo’s faculty of public health. “My sadness stems from seeing avoidable deaths that we are not going to avoid.”