Rio de Janeiro: The South American nation, Brazil, the second-worst Covid hit country in the world after the United States, on Thursday surpassed 4,00,000 coronavirus related deaths with April being the deadliest month since the start of the pandemic. If experts are to be believed the daily toll could remain high for several months due to slow vaccinations and loosening social restrictions in the country.
As per recent dead count, 401,186 people had died in Brazil, based on data tracked by Johns Hopkins University, a toll only the U.S. has topped.
More Brazilians have died from the virus in the first four months of this year than in all of 2020, with the death toll having recorded a sharp surge from 300,000 to 400,000 in the past five weeks alone.
According to Brazil’s health ministry, the daily average of deaths has dipped recently, from over 3,000 two weeks ago to an average of less than 2,400 deaths. Despite of this dip, country’s health systems remain under intense pressure and — between the relaxation of COVID-19 measures, a sluggish vaccine rollout and the spread of a more contagious virus variant — experts predict the pandemic will soon get worse.
Notably, less than 7% of Brazilians are fully vaccinated. A shortage of vaccine supplies has prevented some from getting their crucial second dose.
The vaccination campaign has faltered with the Health Ministry over the weekend saying that 30% fewer vaccines were received than expected in January to April. Many municipalities have run out of vaccines and cannot administer second shots as planned, while others have seen long lines as many people fear supplies will not last.
On Thursday, Brazil’s first batch of Pfizer vaccines arrived in the country. The initial delivery was just over 1 million doses, with the US company set to deliver 100 million shots by the end of the third quarter.
Bolsonaro insists the country must get back to business as usual, arguing that the economic hardship for Brazilians is equally as bad as the pandemic itself.
The Senate this week launched a special committee investigating possible wrongdoing in the government’s pandemic response, promising to call current and former top officials in Bolsonaro’s administration to testify.
Brazilians are increasingly resisting social distancing as towns and cities ease restrictions, cheered on by President Jair Bolsonaro.
Bolsonaro, who continues to attack COVID-19 restrictions, has been widely criticized for his handling of the health crisis. In a television interview on Friday, the president accused governors of using lockdowns to suppress the public’s right to freedom of movement and threatened to use military force to intervene.
A Senate commission will scrutinize Bolsonaro’s conduct as part of an investigation it launched this week into the government’s response to the pandemic. Senators want to know why Bolsonaro defied medical expertise to promote anti-malarial drugs as a coronavirus cure and why he blocked the purchase of some vaccines last year.
In a brief video message posted to his social media accounts after his country reached the latest benchmark, president Bolsonaro said “a big number of deaths has been announced,” as per media and that he is “sorry for every death.” But he repeated his opposition to social distancing measures.
“I pray to God so there is not a third wave,” Bolsonaro said. “But if the lockdown policies continue this country will be dragged to extreme poverty.”