The coronavirus variant in Brazil and the escalating second wave are flooding hospitals

The coronavirus variant in Brazil and the escalating second wave are flooding hospitals

As a new type of coronavirus spreads across the country, many Brazilians continue to challenge the movement restrictions imposed on the mask similar to President Jair Bolsonaro, who recently said that people need to “stop being bisexual” and “complain” about the virus.

Experts say the consequences of this combination are deadly. “We’re going through the worst-case scenario since the start of the epidemic. You just have to look at trends in the average number of deaths,” Gonzalo Vicena Neto, a professor of public health at the University of Sao Paulo, told Reuters TV recently. . “This could have been avoided and the most important factor is the gatherings.”

Brazil broke its record three times this month for the number of deaths in 24 hours. On Wednesday, the Brazilian Ministry of Health recorded a devastating new high – 2,286 people were lost to the virus. In total, more than 270,000 people are known to have died from Covid-19, making Brazil the second highest national death toll after the United States.

In 22 of Brazil’s 26 states, the ICU occupancy rate has exceeded 80%. In the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul, hospital patients must queue up to wait for beds as occupancy rates in intensive care units have risen to over 103%. The neighboring state of Santa Catarina has exceeded 99% of occupancy and is on the verge of collapse, as cases are increasing across the state.

One hospital in Florianópolis, the capital of Santa Catarina, has already exceeded capacity. David Mullen, the hospital’s chief nurse, tells CNN his team is overwhelmed and overwhelmed.

“I was here during the first wave and it wasn’t like that. We totally overwhelmed ourselves, with our occupancy rate exceeding 100%. A lot of those patients waiting in the ICU are not working,” Molina told CNN. During a phone interview.

Health workers blame the gatherings

Molina and healthcare workers blame the recent spike in Covid-19 cases on the big parties and gatherings that began on New Year’s Eve and continued during the Carnival holiday before Lent and into the present day. Many of these were detained in defiance of local city and state restrictions.

Last week, Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Pais announced a new curfew for bars and restaurants across the city, limiting business hours from 6:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. But hundreds of people stayed out of the house anyway – 230 fines and closures related to the curfew were issued from Friday to Saturday only, according to the city government. In one bar, more than 200 partygoers were found, most without masks, at a seven-hour party, according to CNN’s Brazilian network.

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Many municipal and state health officials and lawmakers are blaming the Bolsonaro government for undermining their efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The country’s National Council of Health Ministers (CONASS) asked the federal government to adopt stricter measures to support hospitals and enforce social distancing.

“The health system in Brazil is on the verge of collapse,” Sao Paulo Governor Joao Doria told CNN reporter Becky Anderson during a recent interview. “There is no national coordination to fight the epidemic in Brazil. It will be important for the president and the governors to send the same message to the population, but unfortunately this did not happen in Brazil.

The issue of social distancing measures and lockdowns has become political football in Brazil. While he periodically ordered non-essential businesses to close for two weeks in his state last weekend, Bolsonaro claims that such restrictions plunge Brazil’s economy and lead to an increase in suicides and depression. Disobeying health guidelines made him a source of pride, and he congratulated agricultural workers at last week’s event on not staying at home “like cowards.”

“We have to face our problems. Stop being bisexual, stop whining, how long will they keep crying? We have to face the problems, respect the elderly, the sick, the chronic diseases. But where will Brazil end? If we all stop?” He said.

Bolsonaro announced this week that he has “the power” to announce the national lockdown – but he will never do so. “My army will not force people to stay in their homes,” he said.

Concerns about the new alternative

With the burden on Brazilian hospitals increasing and government officials divided over lockdown measures, the country has few defenses against the potentially more contagious coronavirus variant.

The preliminary version of a new modeling study by researchers in Brazil and the United Kingdom refers to the variable that was first detected in the northern city of Manaus late last year, known as P.1, It may be up to 2.2 times more transmissible.

The study, which has not yet been reviewed or published in a medical journal, indicates that even people who have already been infected with the Coronavirus can be at risk. The same study showed that the P.1 variant could evade immunity from previous Covid-19 infections by as much as 61%.

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This variant is now spreading in Covid-19 patients across at least six Brazilian states, according to a study released earlier this month by the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz), a research institution of the Brazilian Ministry of Health. P.1 has also been detected in the United States, the United Kingdom, and neighboring Venezuela.

“The emergence of new variants, combining the potential for being more transmissible with the absence of broad and detailed mitigation and suppression measures, is extremely worrying,” the study authors wrote, urging Brazil to encourage behaviors that limit the spread of the virus.

“The data showing the prevalence of this variable in several states and its wide spread throughout the country, as well as the challenges presented due to the high level of transmission, reinforce the urgent need to adopt non-drug measures in order to reduce the speed. Or its spread and increase cases.”

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Felipe Navica, a virologist and researcher at Fiucrose Amazonia and one of the lead authors of the study, told CNN that the Covid-19 virus and the various variants and strains are likely to get stronger if not stopped.

“This is what viruses do: they are evolving, they are getting stronger. The only way to stop them is to contain their spread, which is why we need restrictive measures – there is no other solution. Even if the government decrees a national lockdown, we need the commitment of the population. The action of each of us will affect it.” Everyone as a whole, ”said Navika.

vaccination

Hope may be on its way in the form of vaccines. But the introduction of vaccination in Brazil has been slow compared to other countries, including other countries in the region, such as Chile and Mexico.

In January, the health regulator Anvisa authorized emergency vaccines to be used by Sinovac and Oxford / AstraZeneca. Since then, nearly 4% of Brazil’s 211 million citizens have received at least one vaccine dose, according to data from the Brazilian Ministry of Health, and 2.3 million have received two doses.

According to the Ministry of Health, Brazil is in negotiations to purchase the Pfizer, Moderna, Janssen, Sputinik and Covaxin vaccines as well, although only Pfizer / BioNTech is among those vaccines that have been licensed by Anvisa.

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Bolsonaro has long promoted the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine as the only vaccine that will bring it back, and has rejected many other vaccines on the market, including Pfizer, and discredited it. Even Brazilian Health Minister Eduardo Pazuelo turned down an offer in August from Pfizer to buy up to 70 million doses of its vaccine.

“Pfizer says this very clearly in the contract,” Bolsonaro said in December, “We are not responsible for any side effects” – if you turn into a crocodile, that’s your problem. ” “If you become Superman, or you grow a beard like a woman, or a man’s voice becomes loud, they say they have nothing to do with it.”

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But a study in the New England Journal of Medicine now indicates that the Pfizer / BionTech vaccine can “efficiently” neutralize the P.1 variant. The news came as Bolsonaro held a virtual meeting on Monday with Pfizer Global CEO Albert Burla and other executives to negotiate the purchase of 100 million vaccines.

“Thank you for this meeting and we appreciate Pfizer as a great global company,” Bolsonaro said during an excerpt from the meeting posted on his official Twitter account. “We’d like to do these deals with you, even in light of the aggressiveness of this virus in Brazil.”

For now, Brazil’s failure to contain the virus is increasingly a cautionary tale for the world. Dr Michael Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s Health Emergencies Program, said in a briefing last week that he is concerned that the increase in the number of cases in the country could replicate elsewhere.

“The story in Brazil can be repeated and it will be repeated elsewhere if we stop implementing the measures because we need to implement them,” he said. “Countries will revert to third and fourth increases if we are not careful.”

For Molina, the exhausted Santa Catarina nurse, Brazil’s future looks bleaker than ever.

“Unfortunately, I don’t think we learned our lesson,” Molina said. “we [health workers] Tired, exhausted, and sick. We feel helpless. We need more coordinated action if we want to prevent this from happening again.

Reporter Marcia Riverdosa from Sao Paulo and Flora Charner of CNN reported from Atlanta.

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