Brazil is seeing a sharp rise in omicron-supported coronavirus infections that have seen cases, already suspected to have been greatly understated, twice in a week.
The surge has put pressure on the country’s hospital system and threatens an already sagging economy, but it has been largely played down by President Jair Bolsonaro, who has been hostile to the restrictions and spread misinformation about the virus since the pandemic began.
As of Thursday, confirmed cases nearly doubled from the previous week, with the rolling average for the past seven days rising from more than 63,292 the previous Thursday to 97,945, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
However, experts believe the actual number is much higher, due to a lack of testing and unreliable systems for public reporting and disclosure.
Meanwhile, the death toll was 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 of 2021. In total, more than 620 died A person in Brazil after contracting. COVID-19.
Despite early indications that COVID-19 caused by the Omicron variant has milder symptoms than its predecessors, hospitals in the country have reported strains where staff have been infected and isolated after exposure.
“If you don’t know a friend who has the virus at the moment, that means you don’t have any,” Cesar Eduardo Fernandez, president of the Brazilian Medical Association, told Reuters news agency.
“The situation is worrying and some services are likely to collapse,” he said, adding that staff absenteeism in hospitals has tripled in the four weeks since the Omicron wave broke out.
Meanwhile, the alternative is also critical of the economy, with Brazil’s National Restaurant Association saying 85 percent of its members are understaffed, with about 20 percent out of the total workforce.
Airlines Azul SA and Latam Airlines Group have had to cancel flights due to staff shortages, which has resulted in 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 from 10.
Public health officials also expressed hope that the country’s vaccination campaign, which has so far seen 67 percent of the population fully vaccinated, will help ease future pressures.
For his part, Bolsonaro insisted that the Brazilian economy could not afford another shutdown, defending instead the controversial approach of allowing people to become infected in order to take root in so-called “herd immunity” to the virus.
“Herd immunity is a reality. A person who is vaccinated against the virus has much more antibodies than someone who has been vaccinated,” Bolsonaro said on Wednesday.
The president, who dismissed the coronavirus early in the pandemic as a “little flu,” even as it swept the country, also denied that Omicron had killed anyone in Brazil, even though Goias state announced the country’s first death from the new variant. .
“The person who died in Goiás was already suffering from serious problems, especially with the lungs,” Bolsonaro told Gazeta Brazil, which killed them.
His words drew a rebuke from WHO’s Director of Emergencies, Mike Ryan, who, when asked about Bolsonaro’s comments from Geneva, replied: “No virus that kills is welcome, especially if death and suffering can be avoided.”