RIO DE JANEIRO – RÍFor most of this month, Brazil’s intensive care units were at or near full capacity due to the flood of COVID-19 patients, and the sedatives needed to intubate them ran out. The largest cemetery in the country had so many bodies to bury that the undertakers worked for hours after sunset.
But Brazil has moved away from that cliff, at least for now, as funeral and hospital services are no longer collapsed. It has ceased to be the global epicenter of the pandemic due to the fall in deaths and the focus is now on India. But experts warn that the situation remains precarious and that caution is needed.
The number of states with ICUs at more than 90% capacity has dropped to 10 from 17 a month ago, according to data from the state medical research institute Fiocruz. And night burials in Vila Formosa and in three other large Sao Paulo cemeteries were suspended on Thursday after two weeks with fewer deaths.
It is a sad consolation for a country with some 2,400 deaths a day in the last week, more than triple the number in the United States. Brazil surpassed the grim barrier of 400,000 confirmed deaths on Thursday, a figure that experts believe is considerably lower than the real one in part because many of the cases were undiagnosed, especially at the beginning of the pandemic.
The seven-day average fell from more than 3,100 deaths in mid-April, but Fiocruz warned in a report Wednesday that the number could stagnate, and to an even higher level than last year.
“Our goal now is to keep the numbers going instead of stabilizing. That is the most important thing, “said Pedro Hallal, epidemiologist and coordinator of the largest COVID-19 diagnostic testing program in Brazil.” It is good that they are going down, but let’s not assume that this will be the last hour. There is hope that it will be the last one, for the vaccine, but that has to be confirmed ”.
Given the slowness of the immunization program, millions of Brazilians remain vulnerable to a possible contagion, added Hallal, and the threshold that scientists say is necessary to stop the uncontrolled spread of the virus – 70% or more of the population with good immunity through vaccination or previous infection – still a long way off.
The 401,186 confirmed deaths in the country since the start of the pandemic place Brazil as the second country with the most deaths, behind the United States. Most occurred in the past four months due to a more contagious variant that swept the nation. In the middle of the southern summer, there were mass gatherings and people took public transport en masse while mayors and governors relaxed restrictions that the president, Jair Bolsonaro, fervently opposes.
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