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‘A biological Fukushima’: Brazil COVID-19 deaths on the way to pass the worst of the US wave

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – Brazil’s brutal rise in COVID-19 deaths will soon surpass the worst of a record wave in January in the United States, researchers predict, with deaths rising for the first time over 4,000 in a day Tuesday as the outbreak overwhelms hospitals.

Brazil’s total death toll only tracks the U.S. outbreak with nearly 337,000 killed, according to health ministry data, compared to more than 555,000 deaths in the United States.

But with Brazil’s health care at the breaking point, the country could exceed the total U.S. deaths, despite having a third of the population of the United States, two experts told Reuters.

“It is a nuclear reactor that has triggered a chain reaction and is out of control. It is a biological Fukushima, ”said Miguel Nicolelis, a Brazilian physician and professor at Duke University who closely tracks the virus.

On Tuesday, the Ministry of Health reported a further 4,1

95 COVID-19 deaths in the last 24 hours, well above the country’s previous single-day record. Brazil has set daily death records every week since the end of February, as a more contagious local variant and poor social distancing efforts promote an uncontrolled outbreak.

With mass vaccinations limiting the U.S. outbreak, Brazil has become the epicenter of the pandemic, contributing about one in four deaths a day globally, according to a Reuters analysis.

President Jair Bolsonaro has pushed back against masking and locking, which public health experts consider to be the best way to reduce virus transmission.

The country pulled its feet last year as the world raced toward safe vaccines, slowing the launch of a national vaccination program.

Despite the recent rise, Brazilian officials insist the country may soon return to something resembling business as usual.

“We think that probably two, three months from now, Brazil can be back in operation,” Economy Minister Paulo Guedes said during an online event on Tuesday. “Obviously, economic activity is likely to decline, but it will be much, much smaller than the decline we suffered last year … and much, much shorter.”

Bolsonaro has responded to growing political pressure with a dramatic shake-up of half a dozen ministries putting loyalists in key roles ahead of what could be a tough re-election campaign next year against his political nemesis.

While the president has changed his tone on vaccinations and proclaimed vaccines he had recently despised, the far-right former army captain continues to fight in the courts against state and municipal restrictions on economic activity.

With weak measures that do not fight infection, Brazil’s COVID-19 cases and deaths are accumulating faster than ever.

Nicolelis and Christovam Barcellos, a researcher at the Brazilian Medical Institute Fiocruz, each predict that Brazil may surpass the United States in both total deaths and the record for average deaths per capita. Day.

As early as next week, Brazil could possibly hit the U.S. record seven-day average for COVID-19 deaths, according to a model from the influential Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington. The US average for daily deaths peaked at 3,285 in January.

The IHME forecast does not currently extend beyond July 1, when it projects that Brazil could reach 563,000 deaths compared to 609,000 total U.S. deaths expected before then.

Reporting by Pedro Fonseca; Additional reporting by Jamie McGeever; Writing by Jake Spring; Editing Brad Haynes, Jonathan Oatis and Bill Berkrot

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