A carnage. March was by far the worst month for Brazil battling an out-of-control coronavirus outbreak that blew up all counters, with more than 66,000 dead, twice as many as the worst month so far, that of July 2020. In total, 66,573 people have succumbed to Covid-19, or 102% more than the 32,881 victims of July last year in the great Latin American country, according to data released on Wednesday evening by the ministry of Health.
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“We have never seen in the history of Brazil a single event killing so many people in 30 days”, laments to AFP Miguel Nicolelis, ex-coordinator of the Scientific Committee formed by the Northeastern States against the pandemic. Given the virulence of the pandemic, there is no indication that April will not be even worse. “We are at the worst time, with records of deaths and contaminations, which signals that April will still be very bad,” epidemiologist Ethel Maciel, professor at the Federal University of Espirito Santo, told AFP ( UFES).
500,000 dead by July?
In just over a year, the Covid-19 has killed 321,515 in Brazil, a toll only surpassed by the United States. For Dr Nicolelis “it is very possible” that Brazil “will reach half a million deaths by July”. “This is not only a threat for Brazil, but also for the whole world”, he added, while the Latin American neighbors of the country see strong surges of contaminations. The daily death record should soon exceed 4,000 deaths. On Wednesday, a new record was lamented, with 3,869 deaths.
Also very worrying, the week of March 21 to 27 was the week with the most contamination recorded (nearly 540,000), which augurs new records of influx of patients in intensive care and deaths in two weeks in this country of 212 million inhabitants. But hospitals are almost saturated: in 18 of the 27 Brazilian states, 90% of intensive care beds reserved for Covid are occupied, in seven others the rate is 84% to 89%, according to the latest newsletter from the Fiocruz Foundation. .
In several states, healthcare workers have already started allocating intensive care beds to those patients who are most likely to survive. “We arrived at a very tragic situation, which resembles that of Italy” at the beginning of 2020, adds Ethel Maciel. At least 230 confirmed or suspected coronavirus patients died in March for lack of finding a bed in intensive care in the conurbation of Sao Paulo, capital of the richest state in the country, according to TV Globo.
The vaccination campaign in slow motion
Doctors attribute the violence of this second wave to several factors: loosening of health precautions during the end-of-year and carnival celebrations, the emergence of more contagious variants and the absence of a national policy to fight Covid in the country of Jair Bolsonaro. . The far-right president, who has continued to minimize the pandemic, hammered home the point Wednesday: “It is not by staying at home that we will solve the problem,” he said, contradicting his new Minister of Health, the 4th in a year.
The new incumbent, cardiologist Marcelo Queiroga, had just asked the Brazilians to wear the mask and to “respect social distancing” during Holy Week, at the end of the first meeting of the Committee formed by the government and the Parliament, which increased pressure on Bolsonaro. The States, in particular Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, have adopted in recent weeks measures partially restricting activity and population movements.
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But the effects of these measures, moreover deemed insufficient by doctors and widely respected, will take time to be felt. The national vaccination campaign launched in mid-January is progressing too slowly to have a noticeable effect for long weeks, even months. To date, around 8% of the Brazilian population has received a first dose of the vaccine and only 2.3% the second. Only two serums have been injected for the moment: the Chinese CoronaVac and the Anglo-Swedish AstraZeneca.
Brazil on Wednesday authorized the urgent use of the Janssen vaccine (Johnson & Johnson), the 4th after Pfizer, but whose doses are not expected before August. Finally, the approach of the southern winter reinforces concerns, with the resurgence of respiratory diseases, especially in the south and southeast of Brazil, which are colder. “With the onset of winter, we could have a third wave if we can’t speed up the vaccinations,” Maciel warns.
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