Brazil is nearing the collapse of its public health system, with more than half of the states at the limit of their capacity, while pressure mounts on President Jair Bolsonaro to take drastic measures to contain the explosion of infections in the country.
The country is experiencing the worst moment of the pandemic since the first infection was registered on February 26, 2020, which also coincides with the emergence of the Amazon variant (P.1), which, according to preliminary studies, is more transferable.
Since last November, the curve of cases and deaths has grown worryingly, but has taken on dramatic hues over the past 40 days. During this period, the daily average of covid-1
9-related deaths has not fallen below a thousand.
Alongside the USA and India, Brazil is one of the countries most severely affected by the coronavirus. There are nearly 256,000 deaths and 10.6 million cases, according to the Ministry of Health.
More than half of Brazil is on the verge of intensive care units
If in the first wave the development of the pandemic in this continental country of 212 million inhabitants was heterogeneous, in this second wave SARS-CoV-2 kept more than half of the population in check at the same time.
In 18 of the 27 Brazilian states, the intensive care unit of the public health system is over 80%, with one nuance: More and more young people are suffering from serious illnesses.
“There is a risk of collapse and we are already seeing it in different regions of the country,” Doctor Carlos Starling, scientific advisor to the Brazilian Society of Infectious Diseases (SBI), told Efe.
After months of easing, regional and local governments have once again tightened distancing measures such as closing non-essential businesses and curfew at night to avoid the collapse that occurred in January in Manaus, the capital of the Amazon state.
The Manaus situation is reproduced elsewhere
Amazonas, where the new variant came on the market and whose hospital structure was historically precarious, saw its health system overwhelmed within a few weeks. He even lacked oxygen.
Since then, hundreds of Covid patients have been moved to other parts of the country for treatment.
Now other states fear reaching this extreme, such as Santa Catarina (South), which will move about twenty patients with Covid to another region this Tuesday after some patients have died waiting for a place in the intensive care unit.
“The prospects are not good. What we saw in Manaus, we will certainly see in other regions of Brazil, ”warns Starling.
The second wave also comes at a time when the number of intensive care beds funded by the Ministry of Health has been gradually reduced. Only a few field hospitals are still standing.
In December, there were 12,003 government-funded intensive care beds for COVID-19; in January, 7,717, and February, which ended as the second month with the highest number of deaths from Covid in Brazil (3,187), according to the National Council of Health Secretaries (Conass).
Bolsonaro refuses to recognize gravity
The company, which brings together the 27 regional heads of health, called on the day before the adoption of “emergency measures” at the national level to meet “the worst moment of the health crisis”.
They called for a night curfew across the country, the closure of bars and beaches and the suspension of educational and sports activities, as well as concerts, congresses and religious events.
President Bolsonaro, who refuses to acknowledge the severity of the pandemic and is used to criticizing any kind of restriction, has not yet publicly repeated this call, but Vice President Hamilton Mourao has.
Mourao said Tuesday that “it is useless” to enforce “something national” in a country as large as Brazil because it would be impossible to enforce and the government, as he said, is not a “dictatorship”.
He also stated that the population was “tired” of the hygiene measures and decided to accelerate the vaccination campaign.
However, immunization that began in mid-January has been slow and to date only 3.2% of the population have received the first dose.
Coronavac would be of little use against the Brazilian P.1 tribe
Experts consulted by Efe believe that behind this explosion of cases and deaths may be the new variant P.1, which is present in at least 17 of the 27 states in the country.
Last week three preliminary studies were published warning of the dangerousness of this new line, which appears to be more transmissible, infected with up to ten times higher viral load, and is able to bypass the person infected by a previously generated antibody.
In addition, scientists from the University of Sao Paulo (USP) and the University of Campinas (Unicamp) suggested that P.1 can escape the antibodies produced by a vaccine developed from the inactivated virus, such as that of the well-known one Chinese laboratories Sinovac like Coronavac, the most used in Brazil.
“This means that the person can be re-infected five months after vaccination, but not necessarily in a serious condition as the antibodies produced are not the only protective factor in the vaccine,” José Luiz Proença Modena told Efe, professor of virology at Unicamp and research coordinator, supported by the Foundation for Amparo a la Pesquisa de Sao Paulo (FAPESP).
The results were obtained from a small sample of eight patients who received both doses of the Chinese immunizer and have yet to be reviewed by other members of the scientific community.