Image source, Reuters

Image caption, More than 600,000 people have died from Covid in Brazil

A Senate committee in Brazil has voted to recommend that President Jair Bolsonaro face charges over his handling of the Covid pandemic.

Seven of the panel’s 11 members backed a report calling for nine charges to be filed against Mr Bolsonaro, including crimes against humanity.

The committee chair, Senator Omar Aziz, will send the findings to Brazil’s prosecutor-general on Wednesday.

Mr Bolsonaro has maintained he is “guilty of absolutely nothing”.

More than 600,000 people in Brazil are confirmed to have died from Covid, second only to the Covid death toll in the United States.

The report accuses the president of misusing public funds and peddling fake news.

There is no guarantee this vote will lead to criminal charges for Mr Bolsonaro, as the report’s recommendations must now be assessed by Brazil’s prosecutor-general, a Bolsonaro appointee who is expected to protect the president.

The vote concludes a six-month inquiry which has revealed scandals and corruption inside Brazil’s government.

Throughout the process, Mr Bolsonaro has insisted that his government “did the right thing from the first moment” of the pandemic.

Today marked the end of a long process. Six months of hearings, scandals uncovered, a light shone on a government accused of recklessness.

Just before the vote, leading senators delivered impassioned speeches. Renan Calheiros, the man in charge of the final report, said that the inquiry had slowed down the clock of death in Brazil.

The inquiry’s vice president Randolfe Rodrigues underlined how important the process had been to put pressure on the government and speed up vaccinations, and he paid tribute to those on the front line of containing the pandemic.

But for many, it’s too little, too late – the families of the more than 600,000 people who died from the virus will be wanting to know where this inquiry will lead. Will Bolsonaro have to stand up in court to defend his actions?

The inquiry’s president Omar Aziz said the federal prosecutor had a duty to investigate the evidence gathered these past few months – but not everyone thinks justice will be done.

Whether charges are brought against him or not, there is little doubt that Mr Bolsonaro’s popularity has been dented by his handling of the pandemic.

In March, he caused outrage when he told Brazilians to “stop whining” about Covid, a day after the country saw a record rise in deaths over a 24-hour period.

He has continued to spread misinformation on social media and, on Monday, Facebook removed a video in which the president falsely claimed Covid-19 vaccines were linked to developing Aids.

YouTube blocked the video and suspended Mr Bolsonaro’s channel for a week.

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Media caption, The pregnant Brazilian women dying from Coronavirus

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