For the first time, Brazil has reported more than 4,000 Covid-related deaths in 24 hours, as a more infectious version sparks an increase in cases.
Hospitals are overcrowded, and in some towns, patients are starving while waiting for help, and the health system is on the verge of collapsing.
The country’s overall death rate has risen to over 337,000, second only to the United States.
President Jair Bolsonaro, on the other hand, fails to condemn any lockdown measures aimed at containing the epidemic.
He claims that the economic harm will be worse than the virus’s impact, and has attempted to get some of the limitations levied by city governments overturned in court.
He criticized quarantine policies and indicated they were related to obesity and depression without evidence when speaking to supporters outside the presidential residence on Tuesday. He said nothing of the 4,195 people who died in the previous 24 hours.
According to the health ministry, more than 13 million cases of coronavirus have been recorded in Brazil to date. In March, 66,570 people died as a result of Covid-19, more than double the previous monthly total.
“Brazil now… is a threat to the entire effort of the international community to control the pandemic,” Dr Miguel Nicolelis, who has been closely tracking cases in the country, told the BBC.
“If Brazil is not under control, then the planet is not going to be safe, because we are brewing new variants every week… and they are going to cross borders,” he said.
What is the current situation in Brazil?
According to the health institute Fiocruz, patients with Covid-19 share more than 90% of intensive care unit beds in most states (in Portuguese).
Several states have recorded oxygen and sedative shortages. Despite the dire situation, some cities and states are now loosening restrictions on people’s travel.
“The fact is the anti-lockdown narrative of President Jair Bolsonaro has won,” Miguel Lago, executive director of Brazil’s Institute for Health Policy Studies, which advises public health officials, told the Associated Press.
The far-right president’s reputation has plummeted as a result of widespread condemnation of his handling of the outbreak, which has included downplaying the flu, raising questions over vaccination, and defending unproven medicines as treatments.
He’s recently changed his tune on vaccines, promising to make 2021 the year of vaccinations. However, the nation has had difficulty implementing the policy.
His administration, according to critics, was sluggish in negotiating supplies. According to the Our World in Data tracker, only about 8% of the population has received at least one dosage.
Brazil is in a “dreadful state,” according to epidemiologist Ethel Maciel, who told the AFP news agency: “At the pace we’re vaccinating… the only way to slow the virus’s incredibly rapid spread is a successful lockout for at least 20 days”
What is the Brazil variant?
According to Fiocruz, the nation has 92 coronavirus strains, including the P.1, or Brazil strain, which has caused alarm because it is considered to be even more infectious.
According to data analyzed by Brazilian researchers, it first appeared in Amazonas state in November 2020, rapidly spreading to the state capital Manaus, where it accounted for 73 percent of cases by January 2021.
Experts are concerned that the spread of the Brazil strain would result in an increase in cases over several months.
Dr. Nicolelis, the co-ordinator of the pandemic response team in north-eastern Brazil until recently, told the BBC that the country’s response was a “true calamity.”
“It’s the largest human tragedy in Brazilian history,” he said.
“We may get to 500,000 deaths by 1 July, that’s the latest estimate,” he said. “But the University of Washington released an estimate on Friday suggesting that if the rate of transmission goes up by about 10%, we could get to 600,000 deaths.”