Friday, February 3, 2023

Brazil’s COVID Death Toll Surpasses 200,000 As Cases Continue Rising | Latin America News

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Brazil’s COVID-19 death toll surpassed 200,000 on Thursday amid a growing second wave, stifling optimism 2021 will bring any respite anytime soon to a country whose erratic government handling of the pandemic has aroused strong criticism.

The new coronavirus has now killed 200,498 people in Brazil, according to figures from the Ministry of Health – the second highest death toll in the world, after the United States, where the number stands at nearly 363,000.

Brazil has reported a record number of new cases – 87,843 – and the second-highest number of daily deaths – 1,524 – since the start of the pandemic.

Many expected the pandemic to abate in 2021, but in Brazil this year has started with a storm of controversy over the holes in the government’s vaccination plan and the continued denial of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro of COVID-19.

The situation is likely to worsen in Brazil before improving, warns Paulo Lotufo, epidemiologist at the University of Sao Paulo.

“I don’t even know how we’re going to spend January,” he told AFP news agency.

“Many health workers are exhausted. People had to face enormous suffering. “

Vaccine control

Bolsonaro, who has defied expert advice on handling the pandemic at every turn – railing against lockdowns, face masks and other “hysteria” – has stuck to the same scenario as the world begins vaccination campaigns.

Critics accuse him of bolstering anti-vaccine skepticism by saying he doesn’t plan to get the shot and joking that the shot could “make you an alligator.”

Brazil has yet to set a start date for its vaccination campaign.

Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello said on Thursday it would start “by January 20, at best … and no later than early March”.

The government has struggled to get enough doses of the vaccine for the 212 million Brazilians. Authorities fell flat last week when they tried to buy enough syringes, securing less than 3 percent of the 300 million syringes it was offering.

“The list of government errors in responding to the pandemic is unprecedented in the world,” said political analyst Sylvio Costa, founder of the Congresso em Foco news site.

“Bolsonaro is the most stubborn and obsessed of COVID deniers, and that is creating a catastrophe.”

The president, who will be re-elected next year, faces a conundrum: On January 1, the government stopped paying monthly COVID allowances to 68 million low-income workers.

The program had helped him weather the pandemic with its popularity intact, but fueled a skyrocketing deficit.

Bolsonaro said on Tuesday that “Brazil is broke”, blaming the “virus fueled by the press”.

Analysts predict that Latin America’s largest economy will report a 4.36% contraction for 2020 and a disappointing 3.4% rebound this year.

Continuation of the horror show?

After finally lowering the infection and death curves from September to November, Brazil is now seeing uncomfortable reminders of the worst days of the pandemic.

Hospitals in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro recently said intensive care units were over 90% full.

In the city of Manaus, in the Amazon rainforest, where haunting scenes of mass graves and corpses piled into refrigerated trucks took place last April, the health system is again saturated.

With hospitalizations in Manaus having recently reached the highest level of the pandemic, the city has again deployed refrigerated trucks to store corpses. A court on Saturday forced the state government to shut down non-essential businesses for 15 days.

Unlike the first wave, suburban and rural areas are also struggling with a high workload.

Across Brazil, the number of deaths from COVID-19 increased 65% from November to December.

Experts fear another surge in January, after many Brazilians ignored social distancing guidelines during major Christmas and New Year celebrations.

The sprawling country last week confirmed its first two cases of the new, more contagious strain of the virus that has emerged in the UK.

The plight of Brazil and other countries struggling to control the virus counts beyond their borders, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said.

“The point is, no one is safe until we are all safe,” he says.

“The nature of this virus means that the world cannot be as strong as the weakest health care system.”


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