Brazil in the grip of pandemic second wave

Sao Paulo, Dec 18 (efe-epa).- Brazilians have been dying of Covid-19 at the rate of more than 1,000 a day this week, but the news on Friday was dominated by far-right President Jair Bolsonaro’s fuming over a Supreme Court ruling giving officials authority to require vaccination once a vaccine becomes available.

With nearly 186,000 coronavirus fatalities, Brazil is second only to the United States in lives lost to the disease, while the South American nation’s 7.16 million confirmed cases is the third-highest behind the US and India.

Brazil has a population of around 212 million, compared with 330 million in the US. India is home to more than 1.35 billion people.

The public health system is currently treating at least 23,000 Covid-19 patients, while seven of Brazil’s 27 states, including Rio de Janeiro, report that more than 80 percent of hospital ICU beds are occupied by people suffering from the virus.

“Everybody is tired of the virus, principally we who are on the front line, but the virus is not tired of us,” Dr. Alexandre Naime, chief of infectiology at Sao Paulo State University medical school, told Efe.

Deaths from Covid-19 averaged 1,000 a day from May through August, but dropped to a fraction of that level by September and the trend remained encouraging until last month.

“There was a banalization of the prevention rules and what we saw was a horror show in terms of large gatherings, parties, political campaigns, packed beaches and parks,” Naime said.

Brazilians – especially young people – increasingly flouted restrictions, while state and municipal officials showed little inclination to step up enforcement.

At the national level, Bolsonaro, who remains something of a pandemic denialist despite his own bout of Covid-19, waited until Friday to finally impose a testing requirement on international travelers arriving at Brazilian airports.

But the president’s main focus seems to be on denouncing the Supreme Court for its finding that Brazil’s municipal and state governments can require people to be vaccinated against the coronavirus once Brazilian regulators approve a vaccine.

Wednesday’s ruling also gave authorities the power to impose sanctions on people who refuse to get the shot.

In a video posted Thursday on social media, Bolsonaro vowed that his government “will not force anybody to take the vaccine.”

The president has said that he will not take any of the potential vaccines now under development, raising concerns about possible side effects.

“If you take the vaccine and turn into a crocodile, it’s your problem,” Bolsonaro said this week, referring to the vaccine produced by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech, which is already being administered in the US and United Kingdom after securing approval in those countries.

The Bolsonaro administration has signed a contract to obtain doses of the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca with Oxford University once it wins regulatory approval, while the Sao Paulo state government is working with China’s Sinovac on plans to produce tens of millions of doses in Brazil. EFE


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