All of Brazil mourns high number of Covid-19 deaths, VP says

By Antonio Torres del Cerro

Sao Paulo, Jul 31 (efe-epa).- The high number of Covid-19 deaths is a source of sorrow for Brazil, the nation’s vice president said in an interview with Efe, referring to the coronavirus with language that contrasts with the more dismissive rhetoric used by rightist head of state Jair Bolsonaro.

Hamilton Mourao, an army reserve general, said expectations are that the pandemic (currently blamed for more than 1,000 deaths per day in that South American country) will be brought under control in Brazil starting in late August or September, when the Southern Hemisphere winter comes to an end.

As of Thursday, the number of deaths officially attributed to Covid-19 stood at 91,263, while the number of confirmed cases totaled 2.6 million.

But as is the case with the official coronavirus figures around the world, experts estimate that the real number of cases in Brazil is far higher.

For example, in a study commissioned by the Health Ministry and released on July 2, researchers at the Federal University of Pelotas estimated based on the blood samples of nearly 90,000 Brazilians in 133 cities that the real number of cases then was at least 8 million, or five times higher than the number of confirmed cases at that time.

Question: What’s happening in Brazil, which continues to be one of the countries most affected by Covid-19 worldwide?

Answer: In Brazil, a lot of comparisons have been made with France, the United Kingdom, Spain, but we’re a country of contrasts with marked differences in terms of levels of development, income distribution and the ability of public officials to act, which make it impossible to adopt a unified strategy … Our health system has been successful, given that the case fatality rate has been falling. In other words, the medical treatment protocols that have been implemented have gradually reduced the number of deaths, even though they are comparatively high.

Brazil has invested more than the average (spent by) advanced countries – and almost double (the average) of emerging market countries as well – to combat the economic effects of the pandemic. For example, the emergency assistance program ($120 welfare payments for some 50 million Brazilians in the informal sector).

In any case, in my opinion, the real post-pandemic period will arrive when we have a vaccine. Until then, we’ll be subject to occasional outbreaks of this disease.

Q: When do you think the illness will be more under control – below 1,000 deaths per day?

A: I think when we’re out of winter, the (Southern Hemisphere) winter. We’re now in a moment that’s conducive to the proliferation of respiratory illnesses … So according to our data, it will be at the end of August and in September. That’s data that dates back to the tenure of (Health) Minister (Luiz Henrique) Mandetta (who was ousted in April over discrepancies with Bolsonaro).

Q: The National Council of Health Secretaries (Conass), which collects data on the illness from the country’s 27 (federative units), is projecting there will be 150,000 deaths at the end of this year.

A: I’ll abstain from making those types of calculations. It’s obvious that this number of deaths is a number that is painful for the country as a whole, for people who have lost their loved ones. Myself, I’ve had three good friends who have succumbed to this disease, but it’s difficult to make a prediction. If the surge continues, we could arrive at that number of deaths. Let’s remember that 1.5 million people die in Brazil of different causes. There’s been no evaluation as to whether that proportion remains unchanged because there hasn’t been that intense attention on the part of the media on the number of deaths from urban violence and traffic accidents, which perhaps have gone down. That’s why it’s complicated to make a projection.

Q: Donald Trump and Bolsonaro have been the leaders most skeptical about the coronavirus. Do you think the president’s attitude has hindered the fight against the illness?

A: We have a dichotomy here, a contradiction. Much of the media says (Bolsonaro) has no ability to lead, to make people follow him, but then those same media say he is allegedly the great propagator of a certain indifference to the disease. I don’t think he has (hindered the fight). I think the president’s attitude has been aimed at keeping the population from becoming terrified and making them see that the disease was serious and that you had to protect yourself but that it wasn’t doomsday, it wasn’t end times, it wasn’t Armageddon … the illness has ended up being politicized within everything that’s happening in the world. EFE-EPA


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