Brazil is bracing for a third wave of Covid-19 as winter approach


Brazil is bracing for a third wave of Covid-19 as winter approaches amid a slow vaccine roll-out and Jair Bolsonao unwilling to impose lockdowns.

Just over a fifth of Brazilians have received a first dose, while 11 per cent have been fully vaccinated. This compares with 60 per cent of Britons with a first dose, and 41 per cent double-jabbed.

The sprawling country of 212 million has largely gone back to business as usual as it records an average of around 1,600 daily deaths, around half the number of the devastating peak in April, but experts claim warning lights are flashing again.

Epidemiologists blame Bolsonaro for promoting a complacent attitude, telling Brazilians in March to stop ‘whining and crying’ about Covid, and ploughing ahead with plans to host the Copa America football tournament next month.

‘Brazil has taken an unprecedented health catastrophe and turned it into something normal. The majority of people are acting like there’s no pandemic,’ said infectious disease specialist Jose David Urbaez.

‘That’s why predictions are for a very intense third surge,’ he added. 

A health worker in PPE stands over patients at an intensive care ward in Rio de Janeiro

A health worker in PPE stands over patients at an intensive care ward in Rio de Janeiro 

A protester holds a sign criticising Bolsonaro for plans to host the Copa America football tournament in Brasilia on Sunday. The competition kicks off on July 10 - just as experts believe the country could see a third wave of Covid-19

A protester holds a sign criticising Bolsonaro for plans to host the Copa America football tournament in Brasilia on Sunday. The competition kicks off on July 10 - just as experts believe the country could see a third wave of Covid-19

A protester holds a sign criticising Bolsonaro for plans to host the Copa America football tournament in Brasilia on Sunday. The competition kicks off on July 10 – just as experts believe the country could see a third wave of Covid-19

Meanwhile, risky virus variants – including the Brazilian and Indian variants – threaten to accelerate the disease’s spread.

Covid-19 has already claimed more than 470,000 lives in Brazil, second only to the United States.

The South American country’s per capita death toll – more than 220 per 100,000 inhabitants – is one of the world’s highest. 

Some experts say a new surge in Brazil should not even be called a ‘third wave,’ given that the first and second never really subsided.

Whatever one calls it, it risks hitting just as Brazil hosts the Copa America, the South American football championships, which Bolsonaro welcomed after organisers pulled the plug on original hosts Argentina at the last minute over their own surge of Covid-19.

A woman holds a banner accusing Bolsonaro of 'genocide'

A woman holds a banner accusing Bolsonaro of 'genocide'

A woman holds a banner accusing Bolsonaro of ‘genocide’

The 10-nation tournament kicks off Sunday and will run until July 10.

The mayor of Rio de Janeiro, which is scheduled to host eight matches, including the final, has already said his city may cancel. 

Bolsonaro faces mounting criticism and a Senate inquiry over his controversial handling of Covid-19, including his refusal of various offers of vaccines.

He vowed last week that all Brazilians would be vaccinated by the end of the year, but experts say that will be difficult.

His announcement, made in a nationally televised address, was met by a chorus of banging pots and pans in many Brazilian cities – a traditional mark of protest.

Bolsonaro maintains his refusal to impose lockdown measures is responsible for Brazil’s stronger-than-expected economic growth of 1.2 per cent in the first quarter of the year.

However, experts warn the future of the pandemic recovery in Latin America’s largest economy will depend on how well it contains Covid-19.

People march in a protest against the government's response in combating COVID-19, demanding the impeachment of President Jair Bolsonaro, in Rio de Janeiro on May 29

People march in a protest against the government's response in combating COVID-19, demanding the impeachment of President Jair Bolsonaro, in Rio de Janeiro on May 29

People march in a protest against the government’s response in combating COVID-19, demanding the impeachment of President Jair Bolsonaro, in Rio de Janeiro on May 29

Last year, Brazil’s economy contracted by a record 4.1 per cent.

‘If the speed of vaccination is less than the negative impact of relaxing social distancing measures, the third wave could hit Brazil hard,’ said epidemiologist Mauro Sanchez of the University of Brasilia.

One experiment has shown the power of mass vaccination. In the town of Serrana, in Sao Paulo state, public health officials vaccinated 95 percent of the adult population in a study of the effects of full immunisation.

Covid-19 deaths fell by 95 percent and hospitalisations by 86 percent in the southeastern town, population 45,000.

‘We controlled the pandemic in Serrana. We can do the same across Brazil,’ said Sao Paulo Governor Joao Doria, a fierce Bolsonaro critic and leader in the campaign to vaccinate all Brazilians.



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