Brazil sets record for Covid deaths, hospital system in danger of collapse

Rio de Janeiro, Mar 10 (efe-epa).- Brazil is going through its worst moment of the coronavirus pandemic so far with its health care system on the verge of collapse, vaccination going at a snail’s pace due to lack of vaccine and a new daily record of Covid-19 deaths set on Wednesday.

And that last dire statistic is threatening to keep increasing.

The South American giant on Tuesday reported 1,972 Covid-19 deaths, setting a new daily record, but on Wednesday it reported 2,286 deaths, with the trend showing no signs of leveling off.

With more than 270,000 virus deaths, of which some 10,000 have occurred in just the past week, the short-term future looks grim if the trend continues.

Brazil’s 11.2 million confirmed coronavirus cases make it the No. 2 country in the world, after the United States, in the infection category, but Covid deaths began declining in the US in January, a situation experts attribute to Washington’s full-speed-ahead vaccination program.

So far, at least 59 million people in the US have received at least one dose of a Covid vaccine, while 31 million – or 9.2 percent of the population – have been fully immunized.

In Brazil, the vaccination campaign is moving slowly because of the lack of vaccine and “it is at risk of being interrupted,” according to Health Ministry executive secretary Elcio Franco in a letter sent on Monday to China’s ambassador to Brazil, Yang Wanming.

In the letter, Franco said the Brazilian vaccination campaign could come to a halt due to “the lack of doses, (and the) scarcity of international supply,” and he asked Beijing for help in examining the possibility of Sinopharm selling Brazil 30 million doses of its BBIBP-CorV vaccine.

The situation is not a new one in Brazil, where several states in mid-February suspended their vaccination campaigns for several days due to a lack of vaccine.

In mounting the national immunization campaign, the Jair Bolsonaro government bet on only one vaccine, which had been developed jointly by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, but over time it had to negotiate with other pharmaceutical firms for their vaccines although at first the ultrarightist leader had refused to do so.

Such was the case with Coronavac, developed by China’s Sinovac laboratory but rejected by Bolsonaro just because the Asian nation had created it.

That also occurred with Pfizer’s vaccine, and just in the past few days negotiations with that firm resulted in an agreement for Brasilia to buy 99 million doses, of which 14 million will be delivered by June and the rest in this year’s last quarter.

Of the country’s 27 state capitals, 25 have intensive care unit occupancy rates equal to or above 80 percent, according to the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz).

According to the most recent report by the Covid-19 Observatory, released on Tuesday, in 15 of those capitals, where the most serious Covid cases are concentrated, ICU occupancy exceeds 90 percent.

Fiocruz experts say the situation is “extremely critical” and social distancing measures need to be “broadened and strengthened” even though they are the strictest in the cities and regions where the health care system is on the verge of collapse.

The situation led the governors of 21 states on Wednesday to call for a “national pact” among the three branches of the national government to “strengthen” the fight against the pandemic, saying that the coronavirus at present is “our nation’s greatest adversary” and proposing an overarching “management committee” advised by health “specialists” to oversee the handling of the pandemic.


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