Almost eight months after the first case in the country, Brazil this weekend will overcome the barrier of 150,000 deaths due to the covid-19 pandemic, which is slowly receding, at the same time that the population accelerates the return to a dangerous ‘normality’.
With 212 million inhabitants, Brazil accumulates 149,639 deaths and 5,055,888 contagions, according to figures from the Ministry of Health this Friday (9). The country is the second in number of deaths in the world, behind only the United States, which add up to more than 212,000 deaths from the new coronavirus.
After the first case, on February 26, and the first death, on March 16, Brazil saw the numbers grow until they surpassed a plateau of 1,000 daily deaths for almost two months, which began to yield in August (932) and September (752). In the first nine days of October, the daily average is 630 deaths.
The average daily infections dropped from 40,659 in July to 30,000 in September and 27,200 so far in October.
Experts, however, believe that Brazil is going through a plateau moment with numbers still considered high, unlike European and Asian countries, which, after reaching the peak of the pandemic, saw a more drastic drop in contagions and deaths.
“We got to 55,000 cases a day, but we still have 27,000. Yes, it is possible to say that it fell by more than 50%, but it is as if you are descending from the Himalayas to the Alps, I mean, you are still on the mountain,” he explained to AFP José David Urbaez, researcher at the Brazilian Society of Infectious Diseases (SBI).
“After the deaths drop to 600, there will still be a huge road ahead, with many losses,” he added.
– No national plan –
This plateau coincides with the reopening of more non-essential activities, which, according to the researchers, is being carried out without national coordination or adequate epidemiological surveillance, which adds to the population’s failure to comply with preventive measures.
“It is almost impossible not to resume activities” in a country that has witnessed more than 10 million jobs since March, said researcher Christovam Barcellos, from the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz).
“Trade and some industries are important, but this should be done very carefully and we note that, unfortunately, Brazil does not have a national coordination of procedures for this resumption,” he added, speaking to AFP.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, President Jair Bolsonaro has clashed with governors and mayors, who have autonomy on health issues.
Bolsonaro rejected the seriousness of the pandemic and supported the return to normality to prevent the collapse of the economy, appearing without a mask in official acts or alongside admirers.
This image of the president, who contracted the covid-19 in July, “is terrible for us to have a unified idea of what the pandemic in Brazil is,” lamented Barcellos.
On their own, the governors and mayors have put in place measures of social isolation, but a few months ago they authorized more activities such as local tourism, returning to school and opening bars and restaurants.
Prevention measures are in place, but the beaches of Rio de Janeiro and other cities, for example, tend to get crowded every weekend with bathers without masks, despite the municipal ban.
– Waiting for the vaccine –
Despite the errors, the two experts point out that the health system has been able to improve the care for the infected and the treatment of patients in a more serious condition.
“I don’t know if the worst is over because we don’t know what’s coming, but we certainly had worse times than the current one,” Jaques Sztajnbok, head of the intensive care unit at the Emílio Ribas de Infectologia Institute, told AFP. São Paulo, the leading state in covid-19 deaths in the country.
“A lot has evolved since the beginning of the confrontation, so today, if we look at it, the occupancy rate [da UTI] is not more than 100% “, he added.
Brazil is currently developing tests with four vaccines against covid-19. The government expects to produce 140 million doses in the first half of 2021.
Urbaez, however, advises to avoid over-optimism.
“It is believed that the vaccine will definitely solve the problem and this is difficult to say”, explained the infectologist, who recalled the importance of a long process for successful production and distribution.
In the meantime, Brazil must face the pressures on its economy, like the rest of the world. The government softened the coup with emergency aid for almost a third of the population.
The IMF, which projects a 5.8% economic contraction in 2020 in Brazil, warns of “high and multifaceted” risks, such as a second wave of the pandemic and a prolonged recession.