“absolutely dramatic” health situation in Brazil

Caregivers leave the home of a person who refused the Covid-19 vaccine, in Amazonas state, Brazil, on February 12. EDMAR BARROS / AP

It is a text that shivers down your spine. Posted on March 27 in the daily columns Newspaper, it is authored by Drauzio Varella. At 77, this renowned oncologist, the most popular doctor in Brazil, seemingly cautious, can no longer remember his words when it comes to describing the health situation in his country. “The epidemic is out of control. From now on, we can only rely on ourselves ”, alarmed M. Varella.

In fact, Brazil is now experiencing a health disaster of unprecedented magnitude. The country deplores nearly 340,000 victims linked to Covid-19 and up to 4,000 deaths per day. The curves of the epidemic continue to climb: 66,800 patients died from the disease in March alone, more than double the previous month. Washington University is forecasting up to 100,000 more in April.

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“It’s absolutely dramatic. Almost everywhere in the country the health system has collapsed ”, deplores Paulo Menezes, epidemiologist at the University of Sao Paulo (USP). The intensive care unit occupancy rate exceeds 90% in 17 states. Across Brazil, hundreds of patients have already died while waiting for a free bed in the hospital.

The Amazonian variant continues its lightning diffusion

Vaccination is progressing, but far too slowly. As of April 7, nearly 21 million Brazilians (barely 10% of the population) had received their first dose. The delays in delivery and manufacturing are considerable. The government had to revise its forecasts downwards and announced the distribution of only 25.5 million doses for the month of April, half of the amount foreseen in the initial vaccination plan.

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More contagious and undoubtedly more aggressive, the Amazonian variant P1 continues its lightning diffusion. Brazil is now described by experts as a gigantic variant factory, jeopardizing the fight against the epidemic in the region and the rest of the world. The Fiocruz Institute – local equivalent of the French Pasteur – has thus identified nearly 92 new strains of the coronavirus in circulation in the country. “And others could arise, because the virus circulates here too freely”, alert Mr. Menezes.

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Under pressure, Jair Bolsonaro finally announced, in March, the creation of a crisis management committee and appointed a recognized doctor, Marcelo Queiroga, at the head of the Ministry of Health. But the president is still virulently opposed to the containment measures decreed by the local authorities. “Brazil must return to work”, he replied, on April 5.

As the country descends into chaos, the president is followed by part of the ruling elite. On the eve of the Easter holidays, Judge Kassio Nunes Marques, sitting on the Federal Supreme Court (STF), recently appointed to his post by Jair Bolsonaro, thus authorized the opening of places of worship in the country. A decision which could be annulled, Thursday April 8, by the judges of the STF meeting in plenary.

Bruno Meyerfeld(Rio de Janeiro, correspondent)

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