Brazil nears 1 mn coronavirus cases

By Carlos Meneses Sanchez

Sao Paulo, Jun 18 (efe-epa).- Brazil, second only to the United States in coronavirus cases and deaths, was coming up on 1 million confirmed infections Thursday amid doubts about the timing of the peak.

The number of cases grew by more than 30,000 on each of the two previous days to bring the total to 955,377 and the death toll stands at 46,510, the health ministry said in its latest bulletin.

And while the US, with 2.25 million confirmed Covid-19 cases and more than 120,000 deaths, remains the global center of the pandemic, Brazil has seen the largest increases in both cases (183,686) and fatalities (6,835) over the last seven days, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Even so, the WHO suggested that the outbreak in Brazil might be beginning to stabilize.

“That stabilization implies that the impact will continue being the same. It doesn’t signify good news, simply that the velocity of growth is not increasing,” Dr. Alexandre Naime Barbosa, chief of infectiology at Paulista State University medical school, told Efe.

Forecasts of when the disease will peak in Brazil have varied widely since the first case in the country was detected on Feb. 26.

Initially, scientists expected the peak to come in late April or early May. That projection was put back by a month, and then by another month.

The current consensus is that the number of new cases will begin to decline early next month, but some say the apogee may not occur until August.

Rather than a peak, the situation in Brazil is “more like a plateau,” Barbosa said. “There was an increase in the number of cases, we reach a certain level and we will continue with those numbers for a good while.”

“The pandemic varies by region and, for example, in Manaus (capital of the northwestern state of Amazonas) there is a decline in deaths, but they are increasing in (the southern city of) Curitiba,” he said.

Further complicating the picture is the onset of the Southern Hemisphere winter in Brazil’s temperate south and southeast, which always brings an increase in hospitalizations for respiratory ailments.

While in Amazonian northern Brazil, the coming of the dry season means wildfires and the accompanying smoke, likewise a threat to respiratory health.

In Manaus, where Covid-19 deaths were running at more than 100 a day a few weeks ago, the city government announced Wednesday an end to the mass burials that were taking place as bodies piled up at hospitals and the morgue.

The two Brazilian states hit hardest by the coronavirus, Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, together represent more than 40 percent of the country’s GDP, and authorities in both jurisdictions are moving forward with a phased reopening of the economy.

Requirements to wear masks in public and other protective measures are in place, but social distancing guidelines are increasingly ignored as people in the major cities resume riding buses and the metro.

The city of Rio is playing host Thursday to Brazil’s first pro soccer match since play was suspended in March.

Though both of the participating clubs are based in the city, that is where the similarities end. Flamengo, the reigning domestic champions and holders of the Copa Libertadores, are taking on fourth-division side Bangu in a Rio regional league contest.

The two other big clubs in Rio de Janeiro, Fluminense and Botafogo, oppose the resumption of the season and have vowed to go to court to seek legal remedies. The union representing soccer players in the state is also unhappy.

Leading Brazil’s health ministry at this fraught moment is Gen. Eduardo Pazuello, a career military officer with no experience in the field.

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