Brazil experiences a Omicron variant-excited rise in coronavirus infections that have seen cases, which are already presumably very undercounted, double in a week.
The boom has put pressure on the country’s hospital system and threatens the already lagging economy, but was largely downplayed by President Jair Bolsonaro, who has been hostile to restrictions and has spread misinformation about the virus since the pandemic began.
As of Thursday, confirmed cases had nearly doubled compared to a week earlier, with the rolling average for the past seven days rising from more than 63,292 on the previous Thursday to 97,945, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
However, experts believed the actual number was much higher due to a shortage of tests and unreliable systems for reporting and public disclosure of data.
Deaths, meanwhile, were at about 160 per day, much lower than in previous increases in the Latin American country, which regularly recorded more than 3,000 deaths per day in March 2021. In total, more than 620,000 people died in Brazil after contracting COVID-19.
Despite early indications that COVID-19 caused by the Omicron variant lighter symptoms like its predecessors, hospitals in the country reported strains as staff became infected and isolated after being exposed.
“If you do not know a friend who has the virus at the moment, it means you have no friends,” Cesar Eduardo Fernandes, head of the Brazilian Medical Association (AMB), told Reuters news agency.
“The situation is worrying and it is possible that some services will collapse,” he said, adding that staff absenteeism at hospitals has tripled in four weeks since the Omicron wave hit.
Meanwhile, the variant is also hurting the economy, with Brazil’s National Association of Restaurants saying 85 percent of its members suffer from staff absenteeism, with about 20 percent of the total workforce.
Airlines Azul SA and Latam Airlines Group have been forced to cancel flights due to a shortage of staff, which has led to long queues at some airports.
To mitigate the impact, the Ministry of Health this week reduced the quarantine period for asymptomatic COVID-19 patients to seven days out of 10.
Public health officials also hoped that the country’s vaccination campaign, which has so far fully vaccinated 67 percent of the population, would also help ease the pressure going forward.
Bolsonaro, in turn, insisted that Brazil’s economy could not afford another constraint, and instead defended the controversial approach of allowing people to become infected for the so-called “herd immunity” against the virus to take root. shoot.
“Herd immunity is a reality. “A person who has been immunized with the virus has many more antibodies than a person who has been vaccinated,” Bolsonaro said on Wednesday.
The president, who was early in the pandemic discharge the coronavirus as a “small flu”, even though it devastated the country, also denied that Omicron still killed anyone in Brazil, despite the state of Goias announcing the country’s first death as a result of the new variant.
“The person who died in Goias has already had serious problems, especially with the lungs,” which killed them, Bolsonaro told the Gazeta Brazil.
His words were reprimanded by the director of the World Health Organization’s emergency program, Mike Ryan, who responded when asked about Bolsonaro’s remarks from Geneva: “No virus that kills is welcome, especially if death and suffering can be avoided . “