As the rest of the world begins to emerge from the pandemic, Brazil is being ravaged by COVID-19 — with a more contagious variant spreading and deaths surging, particularly among younger people.
The South American nation has already recorded more than 307,000 COVID-19 deaths — second in the world behind the US — and the daily total of fatalities could soon hit 4,000. The virus claimed 3,650 lives on Friday alone.
The crisis has implications for global spread, with the Brazilian P.1 variant already showing up in a patient in New York City earlier this month.
Dr. José Antônio Curiati, a supervisor at Sao Paulo’s Hospital das Clinicas, the biggest hospital complex in Latin America, described full beds and an unending influx of patients.
The supply of sedatives required for intubation in intensive-care units will soon run out.
“Four thousand deaths a day seems to be right around the corner,” Curiati told the Associated Press.
Almost a third of those dying in Brazil are younger than 60, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis.
That is compared with an average of about 26 percent during the previous peak of the outbreak between June and August.
Less than 2 percent of Brazil’s population is now fully vaccinated.
Brazil’s two biggest cities, Rio and Sao Paulo, have implemented extensive restrictions on nonessential activities. And the country’s state-run science and technology institute, Fiocruz, on Tuesday called for a 14-day lockdown to reduce transmission by 40 percent.
But lockdown measures have conflicted with what the country’s leadership wants.
President Jair Bolsonaro, who has favored keeping the economy open, has not been convinced of the need for stronger clampdowns. In early March, after a spike in deaths, Bolsonaro told Brazilians to “stop whining” and move on.
About 40 percent of cases in Lima, the capital of neighboring Peru, are from the Brazilian variant, the Journal reported.
“I dread to think what will happen when P.1 manages to get to [places] that are not likely to get vaccinated for quite some time,” Harvard University epidemiologist William Hanage told the newspaper.
The World Health Organization has identified three variants of the coronavirus, including the South Africa and Brazil strains, which experts say could be resistant to vaccines.
Paul Hunter, professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia, predicts more variants of the virus could emerge even as the pandemic ends, according to a recent report.
Hunter said it was “difficult to predict” how COVID will mutate, adding that new strains might not lead to serious illness. He urged governments to be vigilant as they reopen economies.