Eighteen of the 26 Brazilian states and one federal district have ICUs with a capacity of more than 80%, according to federal and state data. Nine of them are on the verge of collapsing at more than 90% of capacity.
Health Minister Eduardo Pazuelo acknowledged the crisis and told state governors on February 25 that new variants of the Coronavirus have made the epidemic more difficult to control, in a country where death and infection rates have long been out of control.
“The mutated virus has three times more contamination capacity, and the speed could surprise the rulers in terms of structure and support. This is the reality that we live in today in Brazil,” he said.
Data from health ministers in the Brazilian state shows that the state of Rondonia is struggling the most with the rising number of cases, with the capacity of intensive care units at 97.5%. It is followed by the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul, with a capacity of 97.2% and the Federal District, which includes the country’s capital, Brasilia, with a capacity of 96.45%.
Private hospitals are also collapsing across the country. A hospital spokesperson said on Monday that Israelita Albert Einstein Hospital in Sao Paulo, one of the most distinguished hospitals in Brazil – where the country’s first case of Covid-19 was detected – has a capacity of 100% in an intensive care unit.
Last week, Brazil recorded a record 8,224 deaths over the course of the week, bringing the total death toll in the country to 254,942. Brazil also recorded more than 10.5 million cases as of Monday.
Calls for preventive measures
The report said: “With the slow pace of the vaccination process, the emergence of new types of the virus, and the doubts that still bring them, the need to disrupt or slow down the virus transmission network through non-medicinal preventive measures increases.”
The Brazilian National Council of Health Ministers echoed the call. In an open letter, the council called on the government of President Jair Bolsonaro to impose a national curfew, ban mass gatherings and personal education, close beaches and bars and implement a “national communications plan” to emphasize the necessity of taking such precautions.
“The absence of a unified and coherent national approach in Brazil made it difficult to adopt and implement qualified measures to limit social interactions that intensified during the electoral period, at the end of the year, summer meetings, carnivals and celebrations,” the council said.
She added that “easing protection measures and the spread of new strains of the virus has exacerbated the health and social crisis.”
Throughout the pandemic, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has criticized the use of masks, threatened rulers taking lockdown measures, and blamed governments and former rulers for a shortage of intensive care beds.
Contributed to press coverage Marcia Riverdosa in Sao Paulo, Mitch McCluskey of CNN in Atlanta and Caitlin Ho in New York.