Almost eight months after its first case, Brazil this weekend will overcome the barrier of 150,000 deaths from the covid-19 pandemic, which is slowly retreating as the population accelerates the return to a risky ‘normality’.
Brazil, with 212 million inhabitants, accumulates 149,639 deaths and 5,055,888 infections, according to figures from the Ministry of Health on Friday. The South American giant is the second country with the most deaths after the United States, which has more than 212,000 victims of the new coronavirus.
After the first case on February 26 and the first death on March 16, the country saw the numbers rise until it went through a set of 1,000 deaths a day for almost two months, which began to decline in August (932) and in September ( 752). And in the first nine days of October it fell to 630.
Average daily infections dropped from 40,659 in July to 30,000 in September and 27,200 so far in October.
But specialists argue that Brazil is experiencing a prolonged plateau with numbers still at high levels, unlike European and Asian countries that after the rise of the pandemic saw a steeper drop in cases and deaths.
“We have 55,000 cases per day, but we continue with 27,000. Yes, it can be said that it fell more than 50%, but it is as if you were going down from the Himalayas to the Alps, that is, you continue on a mountain,” he told AFP. Researcher at the Brazilian Society of Infectious Diseases José David Urbáez.
“After deaths drop to 600, there is still a huge road ahead, with many losses,” he added.
– No national plan –
This continued plateau coincides with the reopening of more non-essential activities, which according to the researchers are carried out without national coordination or adequate epidemiological surveillance, which adds to the non-observance by the population of preventive measures.
“It is almost impossible not to resume activities” in a country where more than 10 million jobs have been destroyed since March, said researcher Christovam Barcellos, from the prestigious scientific institute Fiocruz.
“Trade and some industries are important, but that should be done very carefully. Unfortunately, Brazil does not have a national coordination in this resumption of activities,” he added in statements to AFP.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, President Jair Bolsonaro has faced governors and mayors, with broad autonomy on health issues.
Bolsonaro denied the seriousness of the pandemic and pushed for a return to normalcy to avoid the collapse of the economy, showing himself without a mask at official events or with his followers.
That image of the president, who had coronavirus in July, “is terrible so that we can have a unified idea of what the pandemic is in Brazil,” said Barcellos.
The governors and mayors instead applied measures of social isolation, but for a few months they have authorized more activities such as local tourism, return to classes and the opening of bars and restaurants.
Prevention measures are in force, but the beaches of Rio de Janeiro and other cities fill up with bathers without masks on weekends, despite the municipal ban.
– Waiting for the vaccine –
Despite the mistakes, both specialists emphasize that the health system has managed to improve care for infected people and improved treatment for the most serious patients.
“I do not know if the worst is over because we do not know what is to come, but we certainly had worse moments than the present one,” Jaques Sztajnbok, head of the intensive therapy unit of the Emilio Ribas institute of infectology in Sao Paulo, told AFP. , the state with the highest number of deaths from the covid.
“Many things evolved from the beginning and the occupancy rate [en la UTI] It is no longer 100%, “he added.
In Brazil, tests of four vaccines against covid-19 are being developed and the government expects to produce 140 million doses in the first half of 2021.
But Urbáez advises avoiding an excess of optimism.
“It is believed that the vaccine will definitely solve the problem and that is difficult to affirm,” said the infectologist, recalling that a long process is needed for its production and distribution.
Meanwhile, Brazil will have to face the pressures on its economy, like the rest of the world. The government cushioned the blow with emergency aid for almost a third of the population.
The IMF, which projects an economic contraction of 5.8% in 2020, warns of “high and multifaceted” risks, such as a second wave of the pandemic and a prolonged recession.