Brazil suffered a record 3,251 COVID-19 deaths on Tuesday (March 23), as pot-banging protests erupted across the country during an address by President Jair Bolsonaro in which he defended his pandemic response and pledged to ramp up vaccinations.
The new record number of daily deaths underlines the scale of Brazil's outbreak, which is spiralling out of control thanks to a lumpy vaccine rollout and a messy patchwork of public health restrictions that are pushing the country's hospitals to the breaking point.
Bolsonaro is under mounting pressure to control the outbreak, after repeatedly playing down the virus, sowing doubts about vaccines and fighting state and local lockdown measures.
In his brief televised address, Bolsonaro said his government had never failed to adopt measures to combat the pandemic and said he would make 2021 the year of vaccinations.
However, in cities across Brazil, loud pot-banging protests echoed through the night as many voiced their anger at his handling of an outbreak that has killed nearly 300,000 people.
Earlier on Tuesday, Bolsonaro swore in cardiologist Marcelo Queiroga as his fourth health minister since the pandemic began, in a closed ceremony. Tapped by Bolsonaro on March 15, Queiroga replaces Eduardo Pazuello, an active-duty army general who has overseen most of the pandemic response.
Bolsonaro has gained international notoriety for his efforts to fight lockdowns, dismiss mask mandates and advocate unproven remedies such as hydroxychloroquine.