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Brazil surpasses 400,000 virus deaths amid fears of a new increase

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SAO PAULO: Brazil became the second country on Thursday to officially exceed 400,000 deaths from Covid-19, losing another 100,000 lives in just one month as some health experts warn there may be dire days ahead when the southern hemisphere go into winter.
April was the deadliest month of the pandemic in Brazil, with thousands of people losing their lives daily in crowded hospitals.
The country’s Health Ministry recorded more than 4,000 deaths in two days at the beginning of the month, and its seven-day average surpassed 3,100. That number has sloped downward in the past two weeks, to fewer than 2,400 deaths a day, though the Health Ministry announced another 3,001 deaths on Thursday, bringing Brazil’s total to 401,186.
Local health experts have celebrated the recent decline in cases and deaths, as well as the easing of pressure on the Brazilian healthcare system, but only modestly. They fear another wave of the disease, like those seen in some European nations, due to a premature resumption of activity in states and cities combined with a slow rollout of vaccination.
Less than 6% of Brazilians have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, according to Our World in Data, an online research site. President Jair Bolsonaro, who is now being investigated by a Senate panel on the handling of the crisis by his administration, has repeated that he will be the last to receive an injection and has attacked mayors and governors who impose restrictions to control the spread of the virus.
Shortly after the publication of the grim milestone, Bolsonaro said in a live broadcast on his social media channels that “a large number of deaths have been announced,” adding that he “regrets every death.” But he repeated his stance against social distancing measures.
“I pray to God there is no third wave” of the coronavirus, the president said. “But if the blockade policies continue, this country will be dragged into extreme poverty.”
Epidemiologist Wanderson Oliveira, one of the top Health Ministry officials at the beginning of the pandemic, said he expects a third wave to occur in mid-June. He told CBN radio station on Tuesday that the country’s immunization effort will not prevent a further surge because many people will not receive vaccinations before winter, when indoor gatherings and activities are more common even in the tropical nation.
“Our vaccination is such that in 2022 we may have a much less tragic summer than we have now,” he said, referring to the last few months.
He added that he expects limited help from partial closures by local leaders, which have yielded weaker results than European-style closures. Many Brazilians disobeyed recommendations for social distancing and partial closures even amid the peak of the pandemic.
Brazil’s vaccination program, while a far cry from its successful campaigns of decades past, has slowed the rate of deaths among the country’s elderly, according to death certificate data released Monday. Younger people remain unprotected and have begun to get sick in much greater numbers as a more communicable variant circulates in Brazil.
In addition to the concerns, the Brazilian Ministry of Health has repeatedly cut its outlook for short-term vaccines. The country’s two largest laboratories face supply restrictions for imports from producers in China and India, which has become the global epicenter of the pandemic.
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