Brazil passes 400,000 Covid-19 deaths as vaccine rollout stalls
Brazil on Thursday became the second country to pass 400,000 COVID-19 deaths after the United States, and experts warned the daily toll could remain high for several months due to slow vaccinations and loosening social restrictions.
Brazil on Thursday registered 3,001 new COVID-19 deaths, taking its total since the pandemic began to 401,186 fatalities, the Health Ministry said.
A brutal surge of coronavirus infections this year has pushed hospitals around the country to the brink of their capacities and led to 100,000 deaths in just over a month.
Brazil’s COVID-19 deaths have fallen slightly from a peak of more than 4,000 in a single day in early April, prompting many local governments to ease lockdowns.
But infectious disease experts warned that this easing will keep deaths elevated for months as vaccines alone cannot be counted on to contain the virus. Two experts said they expect deaths to continue to average above 2,000 per day.
“Brazil will repeat the same mistake as last year,” said epidemiologist Pedro Hallal, who led a national study on COVID-19.
“What will Brazil do now? Go back to easing restrictions and that will stabilize us at 2,000 deaths per day, as if 2,000 deaths from a single disease in one day is normal,” he said.
India has recently surpassed Brazil in average daily deaths, although Brazil has a higher cumulative toll despite having a population one-sixth the size of India’s.
The surge in infections is being driven by the P.1 coronavirus variant discovered in Brazil that is believed to be 2.5 times more contagious than the original version.
The vaccine rollout, with only about 13% of people having received one shot to date, has not been enough to contain the spread without social restrictions, said Diego Xavier, a researcher at government health institute Fiocruz.