The generals summoned by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, a retired military officer, to smother the intractable COVID-19 have lost their war and are now faced with the shameful reality that you cannot slap a virus and neither can you kill it with a bullet.

Bolsonaro, like Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, had undermined the threat of the pandemic and believed that it is just like flu even if a tad virulent, and that it would vanish into thin air soonest. Both of them authorized retired general’s to wage a war against COVID-19 and both of them are losing terribly.

In a story for Reuters on May 27, 2020, Stephen Eisndehammet and Gabriel Stargardter said public health officials appeared to be getting out in front of the virus. They acted on March 13, just two days after the World Health Organization (WHO) called the disease a pandemic. Less than 24 hours later, the ministry watered down its own advice, citing “criticism and suggestions” it had received from local communities.

In fact, four people familiar with the incident told Reuters, the change came after intervention from the chief of staff’s office for Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro. “That correction was due to pressure,” said Julio Croda, an epidemiologist who was then the head of the Health Ministry’s department of immunization and transmissible diseases. The intervention by the chief of staff’s office headed by Walter Souza Braga Netto, an Army general, led to a topsy-turvy response to the pandemic, the loss of two health ministers in six weeks after they disagreed publicly with Bolsonaro over how best to combat the virus. The interim leader now in charge of the Health Ministry is another Army general.

Brazil now has the world’s second-worst outbreak behind the United States, with more than 374,000 confirmed cases. More than 23,000 Brazilians have died from COVID-19. “So what?” Bolsonaro said recently when asked by reporters about Brazil’s mounting fatalities. “What do you want me to do?” Bolsonaro’s predecessors received plaudits for the excellent handling of HIV and the Zika virus. #COVID19