By Pedro Fonseca
RIO DE JANEIRO, April 6 (Reuters) – Brazil’s brutal increase in COVID-19 deaths will soon surpass the worst of a record January wave in the United States, far exceeding an average of 3,000 deaths per day, scientists predict , as new contagious variants overwhelm hospitals.
The total death toll in Brazil is behind only the outbreak in the United States, with nearly 333,000 deaths, according to data from the Health Ministry, compared with more than 555,000 deaths in the United States.
But with Brazil’s health system at breaking point, the country could also exceed the total number of deaths in the United States, despite having two-thirds of the population, two experts told Reuters.
“It is a nuclear reactor that has triggered 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 monitoring the virus.
Right-wing president Jair Bolsonaro has rejected the use of masks and closures that public health experts deem necessary. The country was delayed last year as the world scrambled to get vaccines, slowing the launch of a national immunization program.
With weak measures failing to combat contagion, COVID-19 cases and deaths in Brazil are accumulating faster than ever. On the other hand, a widespread vaccination campaign in the United States is rapidly reducing what has been the world’s deadliest outbreak.
Nicolelis and Christovam Barcellos, a researcher at the Brazilian medical institute Fiocruz, separately predict 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 in the United States, predicts the 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 American victims expected by then. (Reporting by Pedro Fonseca Written by Jake Spring Edited by Brad Haynes and Jonathan Oatis)
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