Brazil is hardest hit by an alarming increase in the number of Covid-19 cases, with deaths reaching more than 4,000 in a single day on Tuesday and hospitals at breaking point.
As the United States advances on immunization and public debates continue on reopening the economy with possible “ vaccine passports, ” Brazil’s predicament reminds us that much of the rest of the world world is still in the grip of the pandemic.
“It’s a nuclear reactor that’s set off a chain reaction and is uncontrollable. It’s a biological Fukushima,” Miguel Nicolelis, a Brazilian doctor and professor at Duke University, told Reuters.
Brazil’s overall death toll of 337,000, according to data from the Brazilian Ministry of Health, is only exceeded by the US figure of 562,000, according to NBC News.
The country is grappling with a highly contagious local variant amid scant social distancing efforts and a nationwide shortage of hospital beds, according to health experts. Many have blamed right-wing populist President Jair Bolsonaro who has repeatedly denied the benefit of wearing masks and questioned the effectiveness of vaccines, contradicting global health advice.
Brazil has also gone through four health ministers since the start of the pandemic, slowing planning efforts, with some Brazilians traveling to countries like Uruguay to get vaccinated. Authorities in Sao Paulo, Brazil’s largest city, have emptied old graves to make room amid the skyrocketing death toll.
Despite the recent surge, Brazilian officials insist the country may soon return to something that looks like business as usual.
“We think that probably in two or three months, Brazil could resume its activities,” Economy Minister Paulo Guedes said on Tuesday at an online event. Meanwhile, leading economists have urged the government in an open letter to speed up vaccinations and prepare for emergency lockdowns, contradicting Bolsonaro’s claims that such closures could impose too much financial hardship.
The surge in deaths around the world reminds us that despite successful vaccine deployments in the United States, the United Kingdom and other countries, the global pandemic cannot be quelled as long as the virus persists and mutations evolve.
“No government or multilateral agency can tackle this threat on their own,” the World Health Organization said in a statement last week. “The Covid-19 pandemic has been a stark and painful reminder that no one is safe until everyone is safe.”
Rowland Kao, professor of veterinary epidemiology and data science at the University of Edinburgh, said that while vaccines and social restrictions work, “we are certainly not on top, globally.” did he declare.
“The worst thing you can have is a substantial number of people vaccinated along with a substantial number of unvaccinated people with circulating disease,” he told NBC News. A scenario that increases the chances of transmission and spread of mutated variants that “escape vaccines,” he said, while jeopardizing global travel and trade.
Kao said it would take a “balancing act” for countries to get back on track. “It’s going to be a game where you can keep it long enough to develop boosters to variations,” he added. “It only takes one person to cross a border.”
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Elsewhere, the pandemic continues to grow.
India reported a record 115,736 new cases on Wednesday, a 13-fold increase in just over two months with increasing pressure on the government to expand its vaccination campaign.
As a second wave gains momentum, the federal government has asked states to decide on local brakes to control the spread of the virus, but has so far refused to impose a national lockdown after the last in 2020 devastated its economy.
“The pandemic is not over and there is no room for complacency,” tweeted Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, urging people to “get vaccinated yourself and strictly follow the appropriate behavior. of Covid! “
Elsewhere in Asia, South Korea on Wednesday reported its highest number of new one-day cases in three months, amid an increase in infections in kindergartens, saunas, bars and churches, mostly in greater Seoul. Korea’s Disease Control and Prevention Agency reported 668 new cases on Tuesday, the highest level since January 8.
While in Japan, where the Olympics are expected to begin in just over 100 days, the western Osaka region on Wednesday canceled scheduled Olympic torch events and declared a state of medical emergency, as cases soared.
“This mutant strain is almost certain to be highly contagious with a high transmission speed,” Osaka Governor Hirofumi Yoshimura said in televised remarks. “The medical system is in a very tense situation.”
Arata Yamamoto contributed.