in Brazil, researchers lament “lack of a coordinated response”

While the World Health Organization declared last week that the Covid-19 epidemic had reached “a plateau” in Brazil, tolls continue to rise, exceeding 80,000 deaths. The pandemic is now affecting the most remote regions.

A new milestone was reached in Brazil on Monday, July 20: more than 80,000 people lost their lives and 2.1 million people became infected, or 1% of the country’s approximately 212 million people, according to a published balance sheet by a Brazilian media consortium.

This consortium, which consists of the diaries Estado de São Paulo, Extra, O Globo, but also the news pages G1etUol, aims to independently compile data on the Covid-19 pandemic. A way to get around the attempts of Jair Bolsonaro’s government to minimize the number of deaths and pollution in the country.

However, the consortium’s figures are considered to be significantly lower than the reality of the scientific community, especially due to insufficient testing. According to this consortium, Brazil is the second most affected country in the world, behind the United States.

For the WHO, the pandemic has reached “a plateau” in Brazil

If tolls continue to rise by 721 victims in the past 24 hours and 21,749 new infections, the World Health Organization (WHO) said the pandemic in the country had reached “a plateau”. There is “an opportunity now for Brazil to eliminate the transmission of the virus,” WHO Chief Medical Officer Michael Ryan told a news conference on Friday (July 18), urging the authorities to “take control”.

The average number of deaths in a week has still been over 1,000 per day for over a month. “The WHO is talking about a plateau, but the problem is that despite this stability, the numbers are still very high,” Mauro Sanchez, an epidemiologist at the University of Brasilia, told AFP. He expects that this situation “will continue for some time” before the number of deaths and pollution begins to fall.

“Lack of centralized response”

There are also large regional differences in the treatment of the epidemic in the 27 states in the country. “The big problem in Brazil is the lack of a centralized and coordinated response: every state, even every city, is doing what it sees fit to counter the pandemic,” decifhers for France 24 Maria Fernanda Grassi, an infectious disease doctor and researcher at Oswaldo Foundation Cruz in Salvador de Bahia. “We end up in very different situations,” she adds. Consequence: regions that have been spared so far, such as in the center-west, south but also in the countryside, are experiencing an increased amount of pollution.

In the state of São Paulo, the most affected in the country, the countryside now has the same number of Covid-19 cases as in the capital, namely 166,000. These remote regions, which represent 52.6% of the state’s population, now have more deaths than megalopolis: 5 616 since the epidemic began, against 5,338 in the capital, according to Folha de São Paulo.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro during a ceremony in Brasilia July 20, 2020. © Ueslei Marcelino, Reuters

In Minas or Bahia, the epidemic resumes despite early containment

Other regions, which thought they had escaped the worst by taking very early restrictive measures, found themselves stuck. In the state of Minas Gerais, the capital Belo Horizonte had ordered an initial containment in early April, limiting the spread of the epidemic. Three months later, a new wave has changed the situation: 91% of the municipalities in the state have identified cases, according to the local daily Minas State, and the occupancy rate of beds of Covid-19 patients in public hospitals in Belo Horizonte reaches 91%, according to local authorities.

The same story in Salvador, the capital of the state of Bahia: strict confinement had been introduced in late March, “with wearing a mask mandatory in all public places,” specifies infectious disease specialist Maria Fernanda Grassi. “Here the epidemic is now heading inland and more than 90% of the municipalities have been affected.” She now fears an overload of hospitals. “Patients will certainly be transferred to Salvador, which could start the epidemic again,” she adds.

Despite this worrying situation, many states are demanding an economic recovery. São Paulo, the center of the epidemic, began a gradual disruption in June while Belo Horizonte ordered the reopening of bars and restaurants, according to the local dailyThe Tempo. “This is definitely not the time,” worries Maria Fernanda Grassi.