© Reuters. FULL PHOTOGRAPHY: Graves of people who have died due to coronavirus disease (COVID-19) are photographed in Parque Taruma cemetery in Manaus, Brazil May 20, 2021. Photo taken May 20, 2021. REUTERS / Bruno Kelly
Da Eduardo Simões
SAO PAULO (Reuters) -The death toll in Brazil from COVID-19 has surpassed 500,000 on Saturday as experts warn that the world’s second deadliest epidemic could worsen due to delayed vaccinations and government refusal of supports and measures of social distance.
Only 11% of Brazilians have been completely vaccinated and epidemiologists warn that, with the coming winter in the southern hemisphere and new variants of the circulating coronavirus, deaths will continue to rise even if immunization they take steam.
Brazil recorded 500,800 deaths out of 17,883,750 confirmed COVID-19 cases, according to Health Ministry data on Saturday, the worst official death toll outside the United States. Over the past week, Brazil has suffered an average of 2,000 deaths a day.
COVID-19 continues to devastate countries in the region with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) reporting 1.1 million new cases of COVID-19 and 31,000 deaths in America last week. PAHO has noted upticks in six Mexican states, Belize, Guatemala, Panama and in some parts of the Caribbean.
OPS has warned that the COVID-19 situation in Colombia is at its worst, with beds of intensive care units filled in major cities.
Experts see the pedace in Brazil, already the highest in Latin America, climbing much higher.
“I think we will reach 700,000 or 800,000 deaths before we see the effects of vaccination,” said Gonzalo Vecina, former head of Brazil’s health regulator Anvisa, predicting a near-term acceleration of casualties.
“We are experiencing the arrival of these new variants and the Indian variant will send us for a cycle.”
Neighbor criticized the management of the pandemic by far-right president Jair Bolsonaro, including the lack of a coordinated national response and his skepticism toward vaccines, locks and the use of masks, which he tried to loosen up.
Thousands of Brazilians have protested against Bolsonaro’s handling of the pandemic in national demonstrations on Saturday, blaming the administration for the high number of deaths and demanding the removal of the president.
Raphael Guimaraes, a researcher at the Brazilian biomedical center Fiocruz, said delays in the vaccination program in Latin America’s most populous nation have meant that its full effects will not be felt until September or later.
Guimaraes warned that Brazil could revisit scenes from the worst of its March-April peak, when the country suffered an average of 3,000 deaths a day.
“We are still in an extremely critical situation, with very high transmission rates and hospital bed occupancy which is still critical in many places,” he said.
This week, new confirmed cases in Brazil accelerated to more than 70,000 per day on average, passing India the most in the world.
Vaccination will be crucial to beating the virus in Brazil, since the country has failed to reach a consensus on social distance and masks, said Ester Sabino, an epidemiologist at the University of Sao Paulo.
“We really need to increase vaccination very soon,” he said.
However, evidence from neighboring Chile, which, like Brazil, was based on a vaccine developed by China’s Sinovac Biotech, suggests that it could be months before mass immunization effectively prevents transmission.
Nearly half of Chileans have been vaccinated, but their capital Santiago has just returned to the blockade as homes develop again to near maximum levels.
Brazil will have to inoculate about 80 million people to reach Chile’s current per capita vaccination levels.
This will require a more consistent supply of vaccines and ingredients in Brazil, which have been spotty in recent months, as imports from China have been delayed after Bolsonaro took action against Beijing with comments perceived as anti-Chinese. .