The fifth largest country in the world is fighting to fight the coronavirus.
Gravediggers in Brazil cannot work fast enough.
Our first stop in Sao Paolo was the largest public cemetery in the city, where they have specific sections to bury the victims of COVID-19. Wearing full personal protective equipment, they are shoveling from 7 am to 9 pm with funerals lined up back to back, which go on well into the night.
We weren’t there long and witnessed two of those funerals: a 28-year-old man and a 25-year-old woman. While we don’t know if they died from the highly contagious Brazilian P1 variant that is currently wreaking havoc in the country, health experts say the difference between what is happening now compared to a year ago is that people who die they are younger.
Infectious diseases doctor, Dr. Rosana Richtman, told us: “It is very clear that the transmission is much, much greater. The age of the population in which our patients with the disease are, they are younger, they are older. young people with a serious illness “.
The health care system is on the brink of collapse: most ICUs are at or near capacity, leaving many people suffering on waiting lists. Life-saving drugs and oxygen supplies are dangerously depleted.
“We don’t have enough space, enough beds, enough oxygen, enough drugs for all these people with this variant that is very, very fast in transmission,” Richtman said.
The death toll from COVID-19 in Brazil is staggering. Just one day after our team arrived, the country reached a record 3,780 lives lost in a single day. More than 315,000 dead in the last year.
Much of the blame falls on embattled President Jair Bolsonaro, who has criticized the lockdowns, denied the science, and lashed out at leaders who challenge him, such as his former Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta, who said: it is collapsing. We have a health problem, we have a social problem, we have an economic problem with the way it is coping. “
With an election just around the corner and approval numbers dropping, Bolsonaro is struggling to procure as many vaccines as possible. The rapidly spreading virus continues to outpace vaccine distribution, with just over 2% of the population fully vaccinated so far. Mandetta says Brazil has the logistical capacity to successfully distribute the vaccine on a large scale, but it simply does not have enough vaccine.
Epidemiologists say that Brazil could have an impact around the world; now neighboring countries take no chances: Chile closed its borders to foreigners, Argentina restricted flights to and from Brazil, Colombia closed its border with Brazil earlier this year and last week President Iván Duque canceled a trip to meet with Bolsonaro in Brazil, citing the raging virus.
During our travels, we met María de Jesús. Her 22-year-old son, Renan, first noticed something was wrong when he went to the supermarket and realized that he had lost his sense of smell. Ran home and sprayed cologne, nothing. He tested positive for the virus and his condition quickly worsened. When it became difficult for him to breathe, Renan went to the hospital but was stuck on a waiting list for an ICU bed in Sao Paulo. When he received the treatment, it was too late. He died two weeks ago.
You didn’t have to speak Portuguese to understand Maria’s pain. Tears ran down her face, drenching her mask, as she told us that she did not want anyone to suffer like her now.