Since late May, three months after Brazil’s first reported COVID-19 case, the nation has recorded more than 1,000 daily deaths on average in a gruesome plateau that has yet to tilt downward.
The Brazilian Ministry of Health on Thursday reported that the nation had recorded 2,012,151 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 76,688 deaths.
Even as cases wane somewhat in the biggest and hardest-hit Brazilian cities, the pandemic is peaking in new locations across the largest nation in Latin America.
Experts blame denial of COVID-19’s deadly potential by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and lack of national coordination, combined with scattershot responses by city and state governments, with some reopening earlier than health experts recommended.
An interim health minister untrained in the field is presiding over pandemic response, while Bolsonaro himself is sick with COVID-19 after repeatedly flouting social distancing recommendations and undermining local leaders’ restrictions.
Brazil’s roughly 7,000 COVID-19 deaths in each of the past seven weeks is equal to several airplanes packed with Brazilians crashing every day, former Brazilian minister of health Luiz Henrique Mandetta said.
“People have become callous,” Mandetta said. “When you say: ‘Yesterday, there were 1,300 deaths,’ people say: ‘OK, then it didn’t go up. It was 1,300 people the day before, too.’”
Brazil’s number of cases is second only to the US and experts believe it to be an underestimation due to widespread lack of testing.
A model created by professors from several Brazilian academic institutions, based on the number of confirmed deaths, estimated that Brazil has had 10 million infections.
Modeling by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation forecasts that Brazil’s death toll would reach almost 200,000 by November, nearly closing the gap with that of the US. The forecast has a wide margin of error.
“We will see how this patient known as Brazil will behave until the end of this epidemic,” said Mandetta, who Bolsonaro fired in April for backing state governors’ quarantine measures.
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