Brazil is expected to surpass the 150,000 coronavirus death mark on Saturday, nearly eight months after the first case appeared, as the number of daily deaths continues to slowly decline.
This country of 212 million inhabitants of continental dimensions is the second most bereaved in the world after the United States, with 149,639 dead and 5,055,888 people infected, according to the latest report released Friday evening by the Ministry of Health .
The first case was recorded on February 26 and the first death on March 16. The curves then increased exponentially, before stabilizing in June, with a never-ending plateau at more than 1,000 daily deaths on average.
The decline began in August, with an average of 932 deaths per day, and continued into September (752). The leveling off of the pandemic was confirmed last week, with 610 deaths per day on average.
The daily average of new cases over a week also sags, to 27,477 from more than 40,000 in early September.
But epidemiologists point out that the drop was much more pronounced in European and Asian countries once the peak was reached.
“We had 55,000 new cases per day, now it’s around 27,000. Yes, we can say that it has dropped a lot, but it’s a bit like moving from the Himalayas to the Alps, we stay in the mountains, ”José David Urbaez, a researcher from the Brazilian Society of Infectious Diseases, told AFP.
“Despite this decline, around 600 people still die from COVID-19 every day, so there is still a long way to go,” he continues.
No national plan
While the number of daily deaths remains high, the resumption of economic activities, which began in June, continues at a pace considered too fast by most specialists.
In Sao Paulo, the country’s largest megalopolis, Mayor Bruno Covas announced on Friday the reopening of cinemas, theaters and libraries, with strict health protocols.
“It’s almost impossible not to resume activities, some businesses and industries have to reopen their doors, but a lot of precautions have to be taken,” said Christovam Barcellos, researcher at Fiocruz, a benchmark public health institute.
“Unfortunately, in Brazil there is no national coordination of this recovery,” he laments.
Since the start of the pandemic, President Jair Bolsonaro has criticized the containment measures taken by the mayors and governors of the various states that make up the country.
The far-right leader has repeatedly played down the virus, which he himself contracted, in July, without experiencing any serious symptoms.
Restriction measures taken at the local level are often little respected, as evidenced by the crowded beaches in Rio de Janeiro, despite the municipal ban.
Hope for a vaccine
Despite this confusion, specialists still point to positive aspects, especially in the public health system, with an improvement, over time, in the treatment of serious patients.
“I don’t know if the worst is already over, you never know what can still happen, but it is clear that we have already had much more complicated times”, estimates the head of the intensive care unit from the Emilio Ribas Institute of Infectious Disease, a referral hospital in Sao Paulo.
“A lot has changed since we started our fight against the pandemic, and the bed occupancy rate has dropped,” he concludes.
With a level of contamination still high, Brazil is a fertile ground for vaccine tests: four of them are currently underway, and the government hopes to be able to produce 140 million doses locally by the first half of 2021.
But José David Urbaez cautions against too much optimism.
“We should not believe that the approval of a vaccine will permanently solve all the problems,” he warns, recalling that mass immunization of the population must follow a slow and complex process.
Especially in a huge country like Brazil.