By Maria Angelica Troncoso
Rio de Janeiro, Jan 25 (efe-epa).- Two of the Brazilian states hardest hit by Covid-19 on Monday imposed new, more stringent restrictions to combat the pandemic, taking action at a moment when the country is registering a daily average of roughly 1,000 deaths and more than 50,000 confirmed cases.
Sao Paulo – a state home to nearly 46 million inhabitants that is the epicenter of the coronavirus in Brazil – went into semi-lockdown Monday morning, while the remote northwestern state of Amazonas sought to relieve its already overwhelmed health system by imposing a strict stay-at-home order.
Brazil is one of the countries most affected by the pandemic globally, with more than 8.8 million confirmed coronavirus cases (third after the United States and India) and nearly 218,000 deaths attributed to Covid-19 (second only to the US).
The situation worsened after the year-end holiday season, with the same states that suffered the most at the start of the pandemic – including Amazonas, Maranhao and Rio de Janeiro – once again experiencing a disproportionate impact.
BRAZIL’S ECONOMIC ENGINE BACK AT HALF SPEED
Strict coronavirus restrictions were reimposed on Monday in Sao Paulo state, Brazil’s economic engine, with commercial establishments now operating on a restricted basis during the day and their doors closed to the public at night.
The goal is to halt the spread of the virus, which has left more than 51,000 dead and around 1.7 million people infected in that region.
All non-essential businesses as of Monday will have to close shop on weekend nights and weekends and operate at just 40 percent capacity – and a maximum of eight hours – during the day.
AMAZONAS IN TOTAL LOCKDOWN
Economic activity in Amazonas state, where a 24-hour curfew took effect Monday in a bid to halt the spread of the virus, has ground to a complete halt.
The health crisis is particularly acute there due to a lack of beds and oxygen for the most vulnerable patients, more than 280 of whom have had to be transferred to other states.
More than 7,000 deaths are blamed on Covid-19 in Amazonas, while the health system in the state capital of Manaus, home to 2 million of the region’s 3 million inhabitants, is now in a state of collapse for the second time in nine months.
Several motorists in Manaus were stopped by authorities early Monday for violating the curfew, although nearly all residents are heeding the strict lockdown measures.
The coronavirus situation, meanwhile, has been further exacerbated by disruptions affecting the vaccine rollout.
After several unscrupulous people cut in line in their rush to get inoculated, the state government suspended all applications for the vaccine and established new distribution measures that took effect on Monday.
BRAZIL’S HEALTH MINISTER UNDER INVESTIGATION
Amid the health emergency in Manaus, Brazil’s Supreme Court on Monday authorized the launch of an investigation into the actions of Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello.
That tribunal acted on a request from Brazil’s prosecutor general, Augusto Aras, who filed the petition after determining that complaints filed against that Cabinet official for alleged negligence were justified.
Different opposition parties allege that Pazuello knew in advance that Manaus’ health system was on the verge of collapse due to a lack of beds for Covid-19 sufferers and insufficient oxygen for patients connected to artificial respirators yet took no measures to alleviate the situation.