SAO PAULO (AP) – Brazil reported a 24-hour census of COVID-19 deaths that exceeded 4,000 for the first time Tuesday and became the third nation to cross the daily threshold.
Many governors, mayors and judges are reopening parts of the economy despite protracted chaos in overcrowded hospitals and a collapsed health care system in several parts of the country.
Brazil’s health ministry said 4,195 deaths were counted during the previous 24 hours, with the country’s pandemic rapidly reaching 340,000, the second highest in the world. The United States and Peru alone have had a daily death toll of over 4,000.
The state of Sao Paulo, Brazil̵
Local authorities nationwide claim that the number of cases and hospitalizations is declining after a week of partial closure.
Miguel Lago, executive director of Brazil’s Institute for Health Policy Studies, which advises public health officials, said reopening was a mistake he feared would lead to even higher death rates, though he believes it is unlikely to be reversed.
“The fact is that President Jair Bolsonaro has won the anti-lockdown story,” Lago told the Associated Press. “Mayors and governors have a political ban on strengthening the social distance policy because they know supporters of the president, including business leaders, will sabotage it.”
Bolsonaro, which has long downplayed the risks of coronavirus, remains fully against lockdowns as detrimental to the economy.
COVID-19 patients spend more than 90% of intensive care beds in most Brazilian states, although the numbers have been stable since last week. Yet hundreds are dying while waiting for care, and basic supplies such as oxygen and sedatives are running out in several states.
Less than 3% of Brazil’s 210 million people have received both doses of coronavirus vaccines, according to Our World in Data, an online research site.
Over the weekend, judges from the Brazilian Supreme Court began a tug-of-war over the reopening of religious buildings, which were closed by many local authorities despite a federal government’s decision to label them as part of important services.
Some churches welcomed their faithful on Easter Sunday, but others were stopped by mayors and governors. Their reopening will be decided by the Supreme Court on Wednesday, but some local councils, such as Belo Horizonte, voted Tuesday to keep religious buildings open.
A Tuesday in Rio de Janeiro also allowed schools to reopen, as Mayor Eduardo Paes wanted. Hours later, the mayors of Campinas and Sorocaba, two of the most populous cities in the state of Sao Paulo, agreed to reopen the business with a drive-thru purchase system after a 10-day halt.
Professional football managers in Sao Paulo said they expect to play games this week after a 15-day outage and promised local prosecutors that they will follow stricter health protocols.