Brazil recorded more than 4,000 deaths in Covid-19 in 24 hours for the first time on Tuesday, the health ministry said, as the country emerged from a wave of infections that has made it the current epicenter of the pandemic.
The corona virus claimed 4,195 lives during the deadliest day of the pandemic yet for the hard-hit country, whose total reported deaths are now nearly 337,000, other than the United States.
Brazil’s health system is declining during the latest wave of viruses, which has forced doctors to make troublesome decisions about which patients to provide life-saving care and led cemeteries to hold funerals at night to deal with the crushing of coffins.
“We are in a terrible situation and we do not see effective action by either state or federal governments,” said epidemiologist Ethel Maciel of Espirito Santo Federal University.
“At the rate we are vaccinating – 10 percent of the population (with a first dose) so far – the only way to slow down the extremely rapid spread of the virus is an effective suspension for at least 20 days,” she told AFP.
“Unfortunately, politics has taken us to where we are today: this huge number of people who have lost their lives. Very sad.”
The health crisis seems to be turning into a political war for President Jair Bolsonaro, who long failed with expert advice to curb the pandemic and is now facing increasing pressure – including from allies in Congress and business – to gain control of the situation.
Now on his fourth pandemic health minister, the right-wing president revised much of his government last week, replacing his foreign, justice and defense ministers and appointing new commanders for the army, navy and air force.
The move has raised concerns that the president is digging for political unrest as he rallies to seek re-election next year.
The country of 212 million people has recorded an average of 2,757 Covid-19 deaths per day in the past week, the highest by far in the world.
It has registered 160 deaths per 100,000 people, after countries such as the Czech Republic (254) and the United Kingdom (187) but still one of the top ten in the world.
The intensive care units are currently more than 90 percent full in 18 of Brazil’s 27 states, according to the Fiocruz Institute of Public Health. All but two are in the “critical warning zone” with more than 80 percent occupancy, it says.
Experts say the increase is partly caused by a local variant of the virus called P1 that can re-infect people who have had the original strain and are thought to be more contagious.
The government has meanwhile struggled to secure enough vaccines and sometimes forced the authorities to suspend vaccinations in certain areas.