Brazil poses global health threat as hospitals fold under COVID-19, experts warn

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Brazil poses global health threat as hospitals fold under COVID-19, experts warn


In a COVID-19 unit in the city of Porto Alegre, southern Brazil, Dr. Tarsila Vieceli said she was witnessing firsthand the collapse of the country’s health system under the weight of the coronavirus pandemic. .
Heart attack and car accident victims, she said, are not guaranteed to have an intensive care bed and surgeries are canceled. There is a waiting list for intensive care beds filled with COVID-19 patients who, unlike when the pandemic started, are younger and do not have any underlying medical issues.

“On a February shift I did in the intensive care unit, out of 10 patients I was caring for, all were on mechanical ventilation – six of those patients were under 35,” said Dr Vieceli during an interview. on Skype during a break from his shift.

This week, Brazil set a new one-day record for deaths from COVID-19, with the health ministry reporting 4,195 deaths on Tuesday. Scientists warn country could surpass record wave of US deaths set in January

Brazil had 340,776 dead on Thursday, according to a tally maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The researchers warn that by July, Brazil’s rapid increase in the number of deaths could see it overtake the United States in terms of total deaths, despite having two-thirds of the population.

Global health threat

As the virus continues to rage, vaccine supplies insufficient and a president who remains indifferent, Brazilian experts are calling for international assistance to end what epidemiologist Dr Pedro Hallal calls “a threat to global public health.”

Health workers treat one of many patients with COVID-19 at a field hospital in a gym on the outskirts of Sao Paulo, Brazil (Amanda Perobelli / Reuters)

Dr Hallal, associate professor of epidemiology at the Federal University of Pelotas, said calling the country a threat to the world did not overestimate the problem. He said waiting lists for ICUs are a sign that the country’s health system has collapsed.

“We are obviously a threat to ourselves because the virus is out of control and we are breaking records every day. But we’re also a threat to global public health because we’re pretty much a variant factory, ”he said in an interview with CBC News.

The P1 variant, first discovered in Brazil, is now spreading around the world, including Canada. This week, Brazilian experts also found cases of the variant first discovered in South Africa, and scientists have warned of a new variant potentially emerging this week in the city of Belo Horizonte.

Dr Hallal calls on the international community to step in to provide vaccines and lobby politically to help solve problems in Brazil.

“We need help, we need help from the World Health Organization, the United Nations, the governments of other countries, because it is not our problem alone,” said Hallal.

As seen with the release of the P1 variant, it warns other countries that the problem cannot be contained within the borders of Brazil.

“This is a problem for you, because if we produce new variants, some of them will continue and we will infect the world population. “

WATCH | Brazilian epidemiologist: “It is not our problem alone”:

Dr Pedro Hallal, associate professor of epidemiology at the Universidade Federal de Pelotas, explains how the terrible situation of COVID-19 in Brazil is a threat to the entire global community. 1 h 00

Presidential opposition

Efforts to stem the spread of the virus vary across the country, with local and state governments trying to enforce partial lockdowns and stay-at-home orders. Throughout the pandemic, these efforts have been thwarted, if not undermined, by President Jair Bolsonaro. Dr Hallal said the president was the main enemy hampering the response to the pandemic.

Bolsonaro said on Wednesday there would be no national lockdown. He continues to downplay the threat of COVID-19, saying distancing and public health measures are bad for the economy.

“We will not accept this policy of staying at home, of shutting everything down,” Bolsonaro said in a speech Wednesday.

In March, after a previous pair of record breaking days, Bolsonaro told Brazilians to stop whining.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro attends a promotion ceremony for Generals of the Armed Forces, at Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil. He continues to downplay the severity of the pandemic and is now on his fourth Minister of Health since the start of the pandemic. (Adriano Machado / Reuters)

“Enough of the hassle and whining. How long will the crying continue? Bolsonaro told a crowd at an event. “How long will you stay home and shut everything down?” No one can take it anymore. “

Bolsonaro continues to launch, despite a lack of studies showing its effectiveness, treatments such as hydroxychloroquine. Politically, he recently reshuffled his cabinet, replacing six ministers, but not the health minister, who had already been replaced last month. This gave Bolsonaro his fourth health minister since the start of the pandemic.

“The president is playing on the same team as the virus and we are playing on the other team,” Hallal said, expressing the frustration of many in the Brazilian scientific community.

“It is very difficult to fight the virus and the president and that is why the situation is so bad in Brazil. “

In Sao Paulo, the country’s largest city, officials said they would start digging some 600 new graves a day, well above the record of 426 graves in one day on March 30.

The city is also preparing plans for a “vertical cemetery,” a crypt with 26,000 drawer-shaped tombs that can be built in 90 days once approved.

Hope vaccine

The country has a strong immunization program, but supply issues hamper efforts. So far, less than 10% of Brazilians have been vaccinated. The country was slow to get early vaccines and is now struggling to catch up.

Still, government officials have an optimistic tone, insisting the country can return to normal soon.

“We think that probably in two or three months, Brazil could resume its activities,” Economy Minister Paulo Guedes said on Tuesday at an online event. “Of course, probably, economic activity will take a downturn. But it will be much, much less than the drop we suffered last year … and much, much shorter. “

WATCH | A breakdown of the death toll from coronavirus in Brazil:

As Brazil continues to fight COVID-19, the death toll in the country has reached new highs. 0:56

Dr Hallal is not so optimistic, but said Brazil could immunize 1.5 million people per day, if the supply is available.

“The situation is still bad but when it comes to the vaccine, luckily we are going in the right direction,” he said.

Dr Vieceli said the international community can help increase the vaccine supply, which would go a long way in helping Brazil.

“I think no one is safe until everyone is safe, I think this is true for COVID-19. It wouldn’t be good to vaccinate everyone outside of Brazil while we are harvesting variants. “

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