At least 33 soccer players and team staff are among 52 confirmed coronavirus cases stemming from the Copa America tournament in Brazil, according to the country’s health ministry, as the world’s oldest international soccer tournament goes on despite backlash from fans and athletes.
Covid is already having a major impact on the competition, with eight players testing positive on Venezuela’s squad before the team faced Brazil in the opening match on Sunday, which Brazil won 3-0.
Bolivia also lost three players to positive tests prior to the team’s 3-1 loss to Paraguay on Monday.
Brazil only became the tournament host on May 31, following President Jair Bolsonaro’s offer to pick up the tournament after an Argentina-Colombia host bid was scrapped due to Covid in Argentina and social unrest in Colombia.
Brazil’s choice as host has led to widespread public opposition since the country’s massive Covid outbreak has not been brought under control.
At least 19 tournament workers have also tested positive.
No fans are allowed to attend games during the tournament.
Brazil’s recorded almost 17.5 million Covid cases throughout the pandemic, third behind only the U.S. and India in terms of caseload, with its 488,228 deaths only surpassed by the United States, according to Johns Hopkins University. Bolsanaro has come under intense criticism for his response to the pandemic, constantly pushing for the country to return to normal, even though cases have remained very high—currently averaging more than 60,000 new cases a day. Anti-Bolsonaro parties in the Brazilian Congress attempted to force the courts to block the country from hosting the Copa America, but the country’s Supreme Court struck down the legal challenge last week.
Players and staff on the Brazilian national team released a letter prior to the tournament saying they were against the Copa America being played, but added “we will never say no to the Brazilian team.”