Brazil braces for third COVID-19 wave | Daily News

Brazil braces for third COVID-19 wave

People visit the Nossa Senhora Aparecida cemetery in Manaus, Brazil to mourn the loss of their loved ones who died of COVID-19.
People visit the Nossa Senhora Aparecida cemetery in Manaus, Brazil to mourn the loss of their loved ones who died of COVID-19.

BRAZIL: Already reeling from one of the highest death tolls in the pandemic, Brazil is bracing for the threat of a third wave of COVID-19, fueled by vaccination delays and a lack of containment measures.

So far, each pandemic wave has been successively worse in Brazil, peaking at a weekly average of around 1,000 deaths per day in July 2020 during the first wave and 3,000 deaths per day last April during the second.

The curve has since turned down, with an average of around 1,600 deaths per day over the past week, and Brazilians have largely gone back to business as usual.

But with the southern hemisphere winter approaching again, experts say warning lights are flashing, raising fears of a return to overflowing hospitals, mass graves, refrigerator trucks piled with corpses and other gruesome scenes from the darkest days of the pandemic in Brazil.

The sprawling country has been slow to vaccinate its 212 million people, and hasty in lifting state and local stay-at-home measures, epidemiologists say.

Meanwhile, risky virus variants -- including the “Gamma” strain that emerged in Brazil itself, plus the first cases of the “Delta” strain that emerged in India -- threaten to accelerate the disease’s spread.

COVID-19 has already claimed more than 470,000 lives in Brazil, second only to the United States.

The South American country’s per capita death toll -- more than 220 per 100,000 inhabitants -- is one of the world’s highest.

But many Brazilians seem unconcerned by the threat of a new surge -- not least far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, who continues to regularly defy expert advice on containing the virus.

“Brazil has taken an unprecedented health catastrophe and turned it into something normal. The majority of people are acting like there’s no pandemic,” said infectious disease specialist Jose David Urbaez.

“That’s why predictions are for a very intense third surge.”

Some experts say a new surge in Brazil should not even be called a “third wave,” given that the first and second never really subsided.

With around 10.8 percent of the population fully vaccinated, the situation in Brazil could get worse before it gets better.

“If the speed of vaccination is less than the negative impact of relaxing social distancing measures, the third wave could hit Brazil hard,” said epidemiologist Mauro Sanchez of the University of Brasilia.

One experiment has shown the power of mass vaccination. In the town of Serrana, in Sao Paulo state, public health officials vaccinated 95 percent of the adult population in a study of the effects of full immunization.

COVID-19 deaths fell by 95 percent and hospitalizations by 86 percent in the southeastern town, population 45,000.

“We controlled the pandemic in Serrana. We can do the same across Brazil,” said Sao Paulo Governor Joao Doria, a fierce Bolsonaro critic and leader in the campaign to vaccinate all Brazilians. - NDTV

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