Brazil Covid Deaths Pass 200,000 With Vaccinations Still on Hold

Doctors and nurses work to resuscitate a patient in the Covid-19 ICU at a hospital in Sao Paulo.
Doctors and nurses work to resuscitate a patient in the Covid-19 ICU at a hospital in Sao Paulo.

(Bloomberg) -- Brazil’s coronavirus death toll passed 200,000 as the respiratory disease again pummels the Latin American country and a nationwide vaccination plan remains weeks away at best. Health Ministry did not yet detail the latest numbers on Covid-19 deaths and confirmed cases in the last 24 hours.

Much like in Europe and the U.S., the virus has resurfaced across the sprawling country in the past few weeks. Year-end festivities which saw large gatherings, and the detection of the new, more contagious variant of the virus in Sao Paulo, have added to concerns about the strength of a second wave.

To make matters worse, the country is already falling behind in the global vaccine race. While other Latin American nations including Argentina, Chile and Mexico have already started giving shots, Brazil has yet to even approve the use of a vaccine to immunize its 210 million people. The Butantan Institute, which is producing the so-called CoronaVac in partnership with China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd., is expected to file a request by Friday.

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Cities from Rio de Janeiro to Porto Alegre, in the South, and Fortaleza, in the Northeast, recorded more cases in December than they did in the first wave of the disease, according to Domingos Alves, a professor of medicine who’s part of the Covid-19 Brasil monitoring group.

Manaus, the capital of Amazonas state which was slammed by the pandemic early on, has declared a state of emergency with hospital beds filling up. Belo Horizonte, the capital of Minas Gerais state, will go into lockdown starting next week.

“We have 10 states recording more cases than at the start of the pandemic, and ICU occupancy rates reaching alarming levels,” Alves said. “The shift in conversation to vaccines has taken away from the gravity of the pandemic. How many more deaths will we have until the first Brazilian is vaccinated?”

Alves says that if vaccinations begin in late March, Brazil’s death toll will near 400,000. The country is expected to reach 8 million cases over the weekend, according to estimates from PUC University in Rio.