Brazil is now widely viewed as the epicenter of the pandemic, with the highest number of daily deaths of any nation. On Tuesday, that number topped 3,000 for the first time, with 3,251 deaths recorded.
Second only to the United States, Brazil has recorded more than 300,000 deaths.
Brazil’s health systems are facing collapse, with ICU occupancy rates in half of its 26 states at 90% or above.
So far, three COVID-19 vaccines have been authorized by Brazil’s health regulators — AstraZeneca, CoronaVac and Pfizer. Fewer than 7% of Brazilians have had one dose.
Mayor of the city of Palmas, Cinthia Ribeiro placed her city in a partial lockdown this month. She shut down beaches, parks and waterfalls, and restricted supermarkets, restaurants and bars to delivery only.
She said she was bombarded with death threats on her cellphone and social media platforms. A crowd gathered outside her apartment block, yelling abusive comments. People raced by in cars in the middle of the night, shooting fireworks at the building.
Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, turned 66 on Sunday, and celebrated publicly by ripping off his mask and blasting governors and mayors who are imposing restrictions. “Some little tyrants, or tyrants, hinder the freedom of many of you,” he declared, promising to defend their liberty and democracy.
Bolsonaro does not belittle the seriousness of the virus any longer, but he maintains that lockdowns are more harmful by creating mass unemployment.
To prevent the pandemic from unleashing a wave of poverty last year, his government responded by making emergency payments of $110 a month to more than 65 million Brazilians. Now, facing growing debt, it has cut that sum to $27 — far too little to survive on.
“Brazil now represents a threat to global public health,” said Dr. Pedro Hallal, coordinator of Epicovid-19, the largest epidemiological study into the coronavirus in Brazil. “The virus is circulating so widely in Brazil that it is possible, and I would say likely, that new variants will appear in the near future. We need to stop that urgently.”
Dr. Hallal is calling for an international task force made up of governments, health organizations and pharmaceutical companies to get far more vaccines to Brazil as soon as possible. If not, “global efforts to control COVID-19 will be jeopardized,” he said.
“If we do not have enough vaccines in the next 30 to 45 days, the situation will be terrible — not only for Brazil, but for the rest of the world.”
Polling shows that most Brazilians, 84%, want to be vaccinized.
See the complete story at NPR.