Rio de Janeiro (AFP)
Brazil’s death toll from Covid-19 surpassed 450,000 on Tuesday, as delays affect vaccine deployment in the hard-hit country and epidemiologists have warned that a brutal new wave of the virus could emerge.
The Department of Health reported 2,173 deaths in the past 24 hours, bringing the official number of lives lost to the coronavirus in Brazil to 452,031, just behind the United States.
The situation has stabilized somewhat, with an average of 1,854 Covid-19 deaths per day over the past week, up from more than 3,000 in mid-April.
But the number of infections has been rising steadily since early May, to an average of 66,000 per day over the past week, prompting epidemiologists to fear that the death toll will start to rise again.
With 215 Covid-19 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants, Brazil is the hardest-hit country in the Americas and among the most affected in the world.
Experts say the latest rise in infections is partly caused by the lifting of pandemic restrictions a month ago, when the curve showed a slight decline.
The slowness of vaccination does not help. About 20% of the 212 million Brazilians received a first dose of the vaccine and 9.9% a second – still too little to significantly slow the virus.
In a worrying development, Brazil last week recorded its first cases of the so-called Indian variant, in six crew members of a Hong Kong-flagged vessel.
The World Health Organization has called this mutation a “worrying variant”, like one that has emerged in Brazil. Both are feared to be more dangerous than the original strain.
It has not been confirmed that the Indian variant spreads locally in Brazil.
But “I think it’s only a matter of time,” said researcher Margareth Dalcolmo, from the leading public health institute Fiocruz.
“The Indian variant is very difficult to contain,” she told CNN.
The Brazilian Senate has opened an investigation into why the country’s Covid-19 death toll is so high, highlighting the unorthodox response of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro to the pandemic.
Bolsonaro has controversially fought stay-at-home measures, rejected face masks, turned down vaccine offers and touted ineffective drugs such as chloroquine.
© 2021 AFP