People under 40 bearing brunt of terrifying 2nd wave of pandemic in Brazil

By Nayara Batschke

Sao Paulo, Apr 16 (EFE).- People under 40 now make up the majority of coronavirus patients in intensive care units in Brazil, where an average of 3,000 people are dying per day as a more virulent and lethal second wave of the pandemic sweeps the country.

Figures from a report released last weekend by the Brazilian Association of Intensive Medicine (AMIB) show that younger people made up 52.2 percent of patients in intensive care in March, up 16.5 percent from the September-to-November period and a record total for that age category.

According to experts consulted by Efe, AMIB’s figures show both a change in the profile of those occupying ICUs and a worsening of their overall condition.

They say the shift is due to a surge in new, more transmissible variants, the vaccination of elderly people and the lack of sufficient – or sufficient compliance with – coronavirus prevention measures.

“Young people stopped worrying (about the disease) and exposed themselves in massive numbers. Just look at the year-end festivities, New Year’s (Eve parties), carnival. That young population exposed themselves disproportionately, much more so than any other (segment of the) population, and now we see the result,” epidemiologist Ana Maria de Brito told Efe.

The greater transmissibility of the new coronavirus variants, which are believed to be up to 70 percent more infectious, also is putting “greater pressure on people in the health service,” including young people, she said.

Brito furthermore attributes the greater proportion of coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths among young people to the launching of a vaccination drive targeting elderly and more vulnerable members of the population.

But Marcio Sommer Bittencourt, a medical doctor and researcher, said the sharp rise in under-40 ICU patients, as well as the surge in new coronavirus variants, stemmed from the decision to ease up on anti-Covid measures in the middle of last year.

“The main justification for why there are lots of young people hospitalized is that there are many young people getting infected,” he told Efe.

The variants, according to that expert, act as an “aggravating factor” for the uncontrolled transmission of the virus in Brazil, which to date has registered a total of 13.7 million confirmed coronavirus cases and 365,000 deaths attributed to Covid-19 (including more than 86,000 over the past month).

“It’s a matter of proportionality. If now 100,000 people are infected instead of 10,000, we’ll have 10 times more of everything, including 10 times more hospitalizations of (previously) healthy people,” Sommer Bittencourt said.

A study conducted by scientists from Harvard University, Princeton University, Brazil’s Federal University of Minas Gerais and other institutions slammed the response to the pandemic by rightist President Jair Bolsonaro, who spent months dismissing the coronavirus as a “measly flu.”

“The death toll of Covid-19 in Brazil in 2020 has been catastrophic. State-level gains in longevity achieved over years or even decades were reversed by the pandemic. The lack of a coordinated, prompt and equitable response informed by science, as well as the promotion of disinformation, have been the hallmark of the current administration,” the study said. EFE


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