‘A Biological Fukushima’: COVID-19 deaths in Brazil on track to overcome worst US wave


RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – Brazil’s brutal surge in COVID-19 deaths will soon surpass the worst of a record January wave in the United States, scientists predicted, with deaths rising to more than 4,000 in one day for the first time Tuesday as the outbreak. overwhelms hospitals.

The total death toll in Brazil is behind only the outbreak in the United States, with nearly 337,000 deaths, according to data from the Health Ministry, compared with more than 555,000 deaths in the United States.

But with Brazil’s healthcare system at breaking point, the country could exceed the total number of deaths in the United States, despite having a population of two-thirds that of the United States, two experts told Reuters.

“It is a nuclear reactor that has set off a chain reaction and it is out of control. It is a biological Fukushima, ”said Miguel Nicolelis, a Brazilian doctor and professor at Duke University, who is closely following the virus.

On Tuesday, the Health Ministry reported another 4,195 deaths from COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, well above the country’s previous record in a single day. Brazil has set records for daily deaths every week since late February, as a more contagious local variant and scant social distancing efforts fuel an uncontrolled outbreak.

With mass vaccinations reducing the outbreak in the US, Brazil has become the epicenter of the pandemic, contributing about one in four deaths a day globally, according to a Reuters analysis.

President Jair Bolsonaro has rejected the use of masks and blockades that public health experts consider the best way to decrease the transmission of the virus.

The country was delayed last year as the world scrambled to get vaccines, slowing the launch of a national immunization program.

Despite the recent increase, Brazilian officials insist the country may soon return to something close to normal.

“We believe that probably in two or three months Brazil could return to activity,” Economy Minister Paulo Guedes said Tuesday during an online event. “Of course, economic activity will probably suffer a drop, but it will be much, much less than the decline we suffered last year … and much, much shorter.

Bolsonaro has responded to mounting political pressure with a dramatic shakeup of half a dozen ministries, putting loyalists in key roles ahead of what could be a tough reelection campaign next year against his political nemesis.

While the president has changed his tune on immunizations, promoting vaccines he had recently scorned, the far-right former army captain continues to fight in court against state and municipal restrictions on economic activity.

With weak measures failing to combat contagion, COVID-19 cases and deaths in Brazil are accumulating faster than ever.

Nicolelis and Christovam Barcellos, a researcher at the Brazilian medical institute Fiocruz, separately forecast that Brazil could surpass the United States in both overall deaths and the record for average deaths per day.

As early as next week, Brazil could break the record for seven-day average deaths from COVID-19 in the United States, according to a model from the influential Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington. The US average of daily deaths peaked at 3,285 in January.

The IHME forecast does not extend beyond July 1, when it projects that Brazil could reach 563,000 deaths, compared to the 609,000 total deaths in the United States expected by then.

Report by Pedro Fonseca; Additional reporting by Jamie McGeever; Written by Jake Spring; Editing by Brad Haynes, Jonathan Oatis and Bill Berkrot

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