NEW DELHI: The coronavirus pandemic is surging rapidly in Brazil. The South American nation reported a record 85,663 cases and 2,216 deaths on March 12. On Saturday, Brazil surpassed India to become the second-worst coronavirus-hit country in the world.
The dire situation has left the country’s health infrastructure on the verge of collapse. The World Health Organisation said the state of the Covid-19 pandemic in Brazil is very concerning and serious action needs to be taken.
As per the latest numbers, the country had 11,363,380 cases of infection and 275,105 deaths since the outbreak of the pandemic.
Experts have attributed the surge in cases to a new variant called P1, also known as the Brazil variant. It is believed to have emerged in Brazil, in or around the Amazon rainforest city of Manaus.
The new variant is far more infectious and was found to be infecting people who already contracted the virus and were cured.
Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical lead on Covid-19, told Friday’s briefing that studies showed the variant had several mutations that “confer increased transmissibility.”
“There are some suggestions of increased severity as well,” she said.
Even as hospitals across the country falter, President Jair Bolsonaro insists on unproven treatments and the only attempt to create a national plan to contain Covid-19 has just fallen short.
For the last week, Brazilian governors sought to do something that President Jair Bolsonaro obstinately rejects: cobble together a proposal for states to help curb the nation’s deadliest Covid-19 outbreak yet. The effort was expected to include a curfew, prohibition of crowded events and limits on the hours nonessential services can operate.
Over the president’s objections, the Supreme Court last year upheld cities’ and states’ jurisdiction to impose restrictions on activity. Even so, Bolsonaro consistently condemned any such moves, saying the economy needed to keep churning and that isolation would cause depression.
Bolsonaro told reporters on Monday that the curfew is “an affront, inadmissible,” and said that even the WHO believes lockdowns are inadequate because they disproportionately hurt the poor.
While the WHO acknowledges “profound negative effects,” it says some countries have had no choice but to impose heavy-handed measures to slow transmission, and that governments must make the most of the extra time provided to test and trace cases while caring for patients.
Brazil is also sluggish in implementing its immunisation programme.
The country has so far inoculated less than 4% of its 210 million residents. It has administered nearly 10 million doses so far and fully vaccinated 2.6 million people.
It was only on Friday that the country gave final approval for AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine developed with Oxford University, which will be manufactured domestically by the Fiocruz biomedical institute.
The AstraZeneca vaccine is already being administered in Brazil but is registered only for emergency use, and the doses have been imported from India.
Brazil has ordered more than 200 million doses of the AstraZeneca and Sinovac shots while dragging its feet on others. President Jair Bolsonaro said this week that Brazil will have 400 million vaccine doses available by the end of the year.
(With inputs from agencies)