Sao Paulo, Mar 3 (efe-epa).- Brazil, one of the countries hardest hit by the pandemic worldwide, set another grim record with 1,910 coronavirus deaths over the most recent 24-hour period, the government said Wednesday.
It was the second straight day the South American giant, which reported 1,641 Covid-19 deaths on Tuesday, touched a new high in terms of fatalities.
The total number of Covid-19 deaths in the country now stands at 259,271 dating back to the first fatality on March 12.
The country detected 71,704 coronavirus cases over the most recent 24-hour period, its second-highest daily total since the start of the pandemic. That figure brings the cumulative number of confirmed cases since the onset of the pandemic there on Feb. 26, 2020, to 10,718,630.
The average number of daily Covid-19 deaths has not dropped below the 1,000 level for nearly a month and a half, while the roughly 50,000 daily confirmed cases is another indication of the seriousness of the situation in Brazil.
The exacerbation of the health emergency and the sharp rise in coronavirus hospitalizations, including of young people, has left the health systems of most Brazilian states on the verge of collapse, a situation attributed in part to clandestine Carnival gatherings.
Experts also attribute the worsening of the crisis to a new coronavirus variant that originated in the northwestern Brazilian state of Amazonas.
According to preliminary studies, that strain is between two and three times more transmissible than other variants and can evade the immune systems of people who had previously contracted the virus.
A study published Wednesday by the University of Sao Paulo’s Institute of Tropical Medicine found that the variant known as P.1 is the most prevalent strain among coronavirus cases in Araraquara, a city in Sao Paulo state whose hospitals are under severe pressure from an elevated number of Covid-19 hospitalizations.
The worrying situation in Brazil has touched off alarm bells in other countries and forced health authorities in much of the South American country to tighten their restrictive measures.
On Wednesday, Sao Paulo state said all non-essential businesses, including shopping malls, will be closed for two weeks starting Saturday and restaurants will only be allowed to provide delivery service.
The goal of the stiffer restrictions on mobility is to avoid the health-system collapses that have occurred in the northwestern city of Manaus, the capital of Amazonas state and epicenter of the pandemic in Brazil; and the southern city of Porto Alegre, where authorities have started transporting patients to other states due to a lack of hospital beds.
Around 7,500 patients are currently being treated in intensive-care units in Sao Paulo state, up nearly 20 percent from the peak of the first wave of the health emergency in 2020.
“We’re going to be facing the two worst weeks of the pandemic since the first registered case of Covid-19,” Sao Paulo Gov. Joao Doria said.
Sao Paulo state, the country’s most populous with 46 million inhabitants and Brazil’s economic engine, registered 367 coronavirus deaths on Wednesday, down from a record 468 fatalities the day before.
“It’s as if five airplanes were to crash every day, killing all of its occupants. That’s not normal, it’s not common, it’s not a ‘measly little flu,'” Doria said, referring to the dismissive phrase rightist President Jair Bolsonaro has frequently used in reference to the coronavirus.
Bolsonaro has consistently downplayed the seriousness of Covid-19 and cast doubt on the effectiveness of vaccines even though he himself is a coronavirus survivor and Brazil ranks second only to the United States in deaths attributed to that respiratory illness. EFE-EPA