Brazil is preparing for the third wave of COVID-19


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Brazil, which is already in one of the highest death tolls in the pandemic, is betting on the threat of a third wave of COVID-19, fueled by delays in vaccination and lack of containment measures.

So far, each wave of pandemic has been successively worse in Brazil, reaching a weekly average of about 1,000 deaths a day in July 2020 during the first wave and 3,000 deaths a day last April during the second.

The curve has narrowed since then, averaging about 1,600 deaths a day over the past week, and Brazilians have largely returned to work as usual.

But with the winter in the southern hemisphere approaching again, experts say flashing warning lights that frighten the return to overflowing hospitals, , refrigerated trucks piled with corpses and other horrific scenes from the darkest days of the pandemic in Brazil.

The expanding country has been slow to vaccinate its 212 million people and has been rushed to eliminate state and local measures to stay home, epidemiologists say.

Meanwhile, risky virus variants, including the “Gamma” strain that emerged in Brazil itself, plus the early cases of the “Delta” strain that emerged in India, threaten to accelerate the spread of the disease.

COVID-19 has already claimed more than 470,000 lives in Brazil, just after the United States alone.

The number of deaths per capita in the South American country (more than 220 per 100,000 inhabitants) is one of the highest in the world.

But many Brazilians seem baffled by the threat of a new wave, no less important by far-right president Jair Bolsonaro, who continues to regularly challenge expert advice to contain the virus.

“Brazil has suffered an unprecedented health catastrophe and turned it into something normal. Most people act as if there is no pandemic,” said infectious disease specialist Jose David Urbaez.

“That’s why the predictions are for a very intense third climb,” he told AFP.

Boat protests

Some experts say a new rise in Brazil should not even be called a “third wave,” as the first and second never slowed.

Whatever it is called, it runs the risk of hitting just as Brazil hosts the Copa America, the South American football championship, which Bolsonaro welcomed after organizers threw plug at the original host Argentina in the last moment for his own climb of COVID-19.

The ten-country tournament kicks off on Sunday and will run until July 10th.

The mayor of Rio de Janeiro, who plans to host eight matches, including the final, has already said his city could cancel.

With about 10.8 percent of the population fully vaccinated, the situation in Brazil could get worse before it improves.

Bolsonaro is facing growing criticism and a Senate investigation into his controversial treatment of COVID-19, including his refusal to several vaccine offers.

Last week he promised that all Brazilians would be vaccinated by the end of the year, but experts say it will be difficult.

His announcement, made in a nationally televised speech, was greeted by a chorus of pots and pans in many Brazilian cities, a traditional brand of protest.

Bolsonaro maintains that his refusal to impose blockade measures is responsible for the stronger-than-expected economic growth in Brazil, at 1.2 percent in the first quarter of the year.

However, experts warn that the future of the pandemic recovery in Latin America’s largest economy will depend on the degree of COVID-19 content.

Last year, Brazil’s economy shrank by a record 4.1 percent.

Mass vaccination: a way out

“If the speed of vaccination is slower than the negative impact of relaxing social distancing measures, the third wave could hit Brazil hard,” said epidemiologist Mauro Sanchez of the University of Brasilia.

An experiment has shown the power of mass vaccination. In the city of Serrana, in the state of Sao Paulo, public health officials vaccinated 95% of the adult population in a study on the effects of full vaccination.

Deaths from COVID-19 fell by 95% and hospitalizations by 86% in the southeastern city, with 45,000 inhabitants.

“We controlled the pandemic in Serrana. We can do the same all over Brazil,” said Sao Paulo Governor Joao Doria, a fierce critic of Bolsonaro and a leader in the vaccination campaign of all Brazilians.

Brazil reaches 82,000 deaths by Covid in April, a new monthly record

© 2021 AFP

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