Brazil COVID inquiry staffers say Copa soccer cup should be postponed

·2 min read

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Staff of a Senate commission investigating the handling of the coronavirus pandemic in Brazil said on Sunday that the Copa America soccer tournament should not be held in the midst of the world's second deadliest outbreak and must be postponed.

Brazil was unexpectedly named as the host of the 10-nation South American championship last week after joint-host Colombia was removed amid ongoing civil unrest and Argentina pulled out due to a surge in COVID-19 cases.

Far-right President Jair Bolsonaro announced on Monday that Brazil would host all 28 games between June 13 and July 10. Over 472,000 people have died from the virus in Brazil, more than anywhere outside the United States.

In a letter to the nation's soccer team, the Senate commission staffers said Brazil had vaccinated only 10.77% of the population until Friday with first doses.

"Brazil does not offer sanitary security for holding an international tournament of this magnitude. In addition to transmitting a false sense of security and normality, opposite to the reality that Brazilians are living, it would encourage agglomerations of people and set a bad example," it said.

"We are not against Copa America in Brazil or anywhere else. But we believe the tournament can wait until the country is ready to host it," the letter said.

Not holding the tournament or participating in it in Brazil would be a gesture of respect for the lives of millions of families mourning dead members, it said.

The letter comes two days after the captain of the Brazilian team Casemiro said the squad would make a statement on Tuesday about whether or not they wish to compete in the Copa America.

Brazilian media reports said the players do not want to play in a hastily arranged tournament due to kick off in a week while they are busy playing to qualify for the World Cup next year.

Brazil have won all five of their qualifiers so far and are top of the 10-team South American group for Qatar 2022.

(Reporting by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Alistair Bell)