Brazil tops 251,000 Covid deaths as daily fatalities also set record

  • 1,582 Brazilians die in a day amid slow vaccine rollout
  • President Jair Bolsonaro again discourages mask use

Brazil has passed two grim landmarks, as deaths from Covid-19 passed 251,000 and the country saw its highest daily toll since the coronavirus was first detected there one year ago.

A total of 1,582 Brazilians died from Covid-19 on Thursday as the country struggles with a slow vaccination rollout, new variants of the disease and an uncoordinated government response.

As the country confronts the second-highest number of Covid fatalities in the world, after the US, Brazil’s health system is feeling the strain. Hospitals in 17 state capitals are overwhelmed with cases, according to the government research institute Fiocruz. More than 90% of intensive care beds are full in the Amazon cities of Manaus and Porto Velho.

“This scenario in the state capitals is certainly due, in part, to the increased circulation of the new variant in these locations,” said Julio Croda, an epidemiologist and researcher at Fiocruz.

Partial data showed that the new strain found in the Amazonas state (P1) has a mutation in the amino acid 501, the same as in the United Kingdom and South Africa strains. The change allows P1 to be more contagious and dangerous, Croda said.

“We observed a very rapid growth in the number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths in Manaus. In a matter of two weeks, the health system collapsed.” the epidemiologist said.

But even as experts warned of a looming Covid avalanche in the weeks ahead, Brazil’s president again discouraged the use of masks, a method which has been proved effective against Covid-19.

During his weekly live stream on Thursday, Jair Bolsonaro mentioned an unspecified study to argue that masks caused side-effects, including skin reactions and headaches, in children.

“There is an extremely populist policy in the country, based on anti-scientific discourse, that is contrary to the use of masks and in favour of opening up trade,” Dr Alexandre Naime Barbosa said.

He also said that the bad example of the federal government led people in Brazil to disregard protective measures as social distancing.

“My team is exhausted, everyone is burned out. Our families can’t take it any more. The paradox is that inside the hospital there is a waiting line and outside is full of people, no one wearing masks,” Barbosa, a professor who is the head of the infectious disease department at São Paulo State University, said.

The country began vaccinating health workers and older people in January but the campaign is lagging amid lack of doses and logistical problems. A load of 78,000 doses that the ministry of health should have sent to the state of Amazonas arrived in Amapá.

While the health minister, Eduardo Pazuello, pledged the government would vaccinate all Brazilians this year, only 3% have so far received the injections.

Contributor

Flávia Milhorance in Rio de Janeiro

The GuardianTramp

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