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Today it is rare that there is a person in Brazil who has not lost a loved one to covid-19, say local scientists, when the country reached the grim milestone of half a million deaths attributed to the virus.
The South American nation, which is home to half the continent's population, is being decimated by the virus.
On June 18 alone, Brazil accounted for nearly a third of all COVID-19 deaths worldwide, according to Our World in Data, a figure that experts warn is rising rapidly as the virus spreads uncontrollably throughout. the territory.
The 500,000 death toll is double what it was six months ago, a sign that the death rate is accelerating, experts say.
«In June of last year, we reached 50,000 deaths from covid-19.
In just one year we have multiplied this number 10 times.
It's very scary, "says Brazilian neuroscientist Miguel Nicolelis, who in January predicted that the country would reach 500,000 deaths in July.
"At the time, people thought the number was exaggerated," he recalls.
Cemetery workers carry the coffin of a person who died from complications related to Covid-19 at the Inhauma Cemetery in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on June 18, 2021.
The country has suffered a slow deployment of vaccines and firm resistance to containment measures by the government of President Jair Bolsonaro, who has downplayed the severity of the virus.
Without confinement and only 11.4% of the population fully vaccinated, the country is considered a "barn of new variants" and is increasingly isolated from the rest of the world.
To date, more than 100 countries restrict the entry of Brazilians, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The pressure on the federal government increases: on Saturday demonstrations against Bolsonaro were held throughout the country - in Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Brasilia, Salvador and Recife - and even those who were in quarantine took to the streets.
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The software developer Mariana Oliveira is one of them.
He says he decided to protest and risk infection because "the government is a worse threat than the virus."
Bolsonaro did not comment on the milestone of 500,000 deaths when he posted a video on his social media to encourage police forces.
But Fabio Faria, Brazil's communications minister, used the occasion to attack opponents of the government.
"Soon you will see politicians, artists and journalists 'afflicted' by the death toll of 500,000," he said on his social networks.
"You will never see them celebrate the 86 million doses applied or the 18 million cured (of covid-19) because the tone is always that of 'the worse, the better'.
Unfortunately, they celebrate the virus.
For Pedro Hallall, epidemiologist and professor at the Federal University of Pelotas (UFPel), the high death toll shows the power of the federal government's resistance to more restrictive local measures.
"There is no way to do a lockdown without the federal government, because of its size and importance," says Hallal.
Bolsonaro has repeatedly downplayed the severity of the pandemic, calling COVID-19 a "little flu."
In addition, since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the global pandemic, it has participated in at least 84 mass rallies, according to a survey by the Brazilian newspaper O Globo.
State and local efforts to establish basic protocols to address infectious diseases, including testing, monitoring and isolating those infected, have also been weak, according to Hallal.
A study published in the Lancet Journal by Hallal and his team earlier this year estimated that three out of four deaths could have been prevented if Brazil had followed basic protocols for a pandemic.
Four out of every five deaths could have been prevented if the government had fought the disease as well as the average country, Hallal's team estimated.
“We see a slowdown in the pandemic in the world and an acceleration in Brazil.
What's behind this?
It is an unnecessary destruction of the population.
All Brazilians have lost people close to us, it is very difficult to find a Brazilian who has not lost someone close to us.
We [scientists] warn, but nothing happens in practice, ”says Hallal.
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Vaccine emails ignored
The Parliamentary Commission for Parliamentary Inquiry (CPI) has been conducting an investigation since spring into the handling of the pandemic by various levels of government, led by the Senate of Brazil, and is investigating whether the federal government intentionally delayed the launch of the vaccine consistent with your herd immunity strategy.
Bolsonaro and his supporters say the Senate investigation was aimed at weakening the federal government.
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The CPI found that the Brazilian government ignored 81 emails from the pharmaceutical company Pfizer, which offered its first offer of vaccines last August, at half the price offered to the United States.
One of the tasks of the CPI is to investigate the adoption and promotion of drugs of unproven efficacy against COVID-19, such as hydroxychloroquine, by the federal government, instead of measures of more proven efficacy, such as the vaccine, the use of masks and physical distancing.
In addition to the health emergency chaos, Brazil offered to host the Copa América, South America's main soccer competition, after Argentina refused to host the event and Colombia requested a postponement of the tournament, according to Conmebol.
The tournament was originally going to be jointly organized by Argentina and Colombia, but the organizers decided to withdraw it first from Colombia, due to the general social unrest in the country, and then also from Argentina, due to the resurgence of the pandemic.
Bolsonaro boasted that the country would go ahead with the tournament, despite widespread opposition and efforts by national team players to boycott the event.
As of June 18, Conmebol, the South American Football Confederation confirmed 63 cases of covid-19 related to the tournament, 14 of them only from the Venezuelan delegation.
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“As we do not close or block the airspace, Brazil receives variants from all over the world.
The new one is the C37 (Andean variant) at a time when Brazil receives several delegations from this region to play.
The America's Cup shows how the federal authorities do not respect life, ”says Nicolelis, the Brazilian neuroscientist.
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The third wave
Nicolelis says she cannot predict what the next phase of the crisis in Brazil will be like.
“Each wave has a peculiarity.
The third wave, at least in Sao Paulo, behaves differently from the previous ones.
It comes from the countryside to the capital.
The health system in the interior of the state has collapsed and now the capital has reached 80% of the beds in the ICU ”, he indicates.
Hallal says that without restrictive measures and confinements, the death toll in Brazil will continue to rise until the vaccine reaches at least 40% of the population.
The government of Sao Paulo, Brazil's most populous state, announced Wednesday that it will expand the reopening of schools.
“I think we are going to stay like this for another four months, unfortunately.
Only the effect of the vaccine will solve the pandemic in Brazil ”, says Hallal.
At this stage, the long-term impacts for the millions infected are also impossible to predict, but a new study offers a bleak picture of the future: 23% of people with COVID-19 in the US developed a type. of chronic heart disease, respiratory, neurological or psychiatric diseases.
"When we look at the number of" recovered "there are millions of people who in the future will demand all kinds of service needs from the Unified Health System (SUS) for chronic diseases.
In the long term, this demand will be explosive.
All this amid years of public health cuts.
Without SUS, the catastrophe in Brazil would be even worse, ”says Nicolelis.
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