‘Biological fukushima’: COVID-19 Brazilian deaths on track to hit worst US wave

RIO DE JANEIRO, (Reuters) – Brazil’s brutal surge in COVID-19 deaths will soon surpass the worst of the January wave ever in the United States, according to scientists’ predictions, with deaths climbing for the first time above 4,000 in yesterday’s day as the hospital defeat cases.

Brazil’s overall death toll tracks were just U.S. cases, with nearly 337,000 killed, according to Ministry of Health data, compared to more than 555,000 dead in the United States.

But with the Brazilian healthcare system at the breaking point, the country could well exceed US total deaths, despite having a two-thirds U.S. population, two experts told Reuters.

“It’s a nuclear reactor that has started a chain reaction and is out of control. It’s a biological Fukushima, ”says Miguel Nicolelis, a Brazilian doctor and professor at Duke University, who is closely tracking the virus.

On Tuesday, the Ministry of Health reported another 4,195 COVID-19 deaths in the last 24 hours, well above the country’s previous one-day record. Brazil has set daily death records every week since late February, as more infectious local variation and scarce social isolation efforts are fueling an uncontrolled outbreak.

With mass vaccinations reducing US outbreaks, Brazil has become the epicenter of the pandemic, contributing about one in four deaths a day globally, according to a Reuters analysis.

President Jair Bolsonaro has pushed back against wearing masks and locks that public health experts consider is the best way to reduce virus transmission.

The country dragged its feet last year as the world raced to secure vaccines, slowing the launch of a national immunization program.

Despite the recent surge, Brazilian officials insist that the country can soon return to something that is like business as usual.

“We think two, three months from now Brazil could be back to business,” Economy Minister Paulo Guedes said during an online event yesterday. “Of course, economic activity will probably take a fall but it will be much, much smaller than the fall we suffered last year … and much, much shorter.”

Bolsonaro has responded to growing political pressure with a dramatic shake-up of half a dozen ministries, putting loyalists in key roles ahead of what could be a tough re-election campaign next year against his political nemesis.

While the president has shifted his tone on immunizations, vaccinating vaccines he had recently respected, the former right-wing army captain continues to fight in the courts against state and municipal restrictions on economic activity.

With weak measures unable to combat infection, Brazil’s COVID-19 outbreaks and deaths are accumulating faster than ever.

Nicolelis and Christovam Barcellos, a researcher at the Brazilian medical institute Fiocruz, separately predict that Brazil could surpass the United States in overall mortality and the record for average deaths per day.

As early as next week, Brazil may cut the highest seven-day average in the United States for COVID-19 deaths, according to a model by the influential Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington . The US daily average of deaths peaked at 3,285 in January.

The IHME forecast does not currently extend beyond July 1, when it estimates Brazil could reach 563,000 deaths, compared to a total of 609,000 deaths in the US expected by then.