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Brazil at the height of the pandemic | Free press

Rio de Janeiro (dpa) – Most bars and restaurants in Rio de Janeiro have already closed their shops and closed their doors by 6pm on Saturday.

“Rio de Janeiro is a ghost town, isn’t it?” Says a pedestrian in the Lapa entertainment district. Unlike many previous weekends, the negligence, even the indifference to the coronavirus, now seems to have made way for reason. The chatter of voices and music give way to silence, and the light from the beam is replaced by an inhospitable darkness.

It was the first weekend of a “lockdown light” with a kind of curfew. Rio de Janeiro’s mayor, Eduardo Paes, had ordered bars and restaurants to close at 5pm on Friday and that it is also prohibited to stay on public streets and squares after 11pm. Kiosks on famous beaches such as Copacabana remained completely closed.

Although experts criticize the hesitation in the measures now taken and the lack of a solution for the overcrowded public transport – politicians in other states and cities have also recognized the seriousness of the situation and have tightened measures against the rapid spread of the corona virus. For example, São Paulo entered the so-called red phase on Saturday and the stores had to close.

Today’s scenario is very reminiscent of the chaotic start of the pandemic in April and May – and is the sad culmination so far of Brazil’s corona crisis, which has just had its deadliest week. On Wednesday alone, 1,910 people died with or from Sars-CoV-2 – the highest value ever recorded in Brazil in 24 hours. According to official figures, about 10,000 Brazilians died within a week. A total of 11,019,344 people have been infected with the coronavirus in the largest country in Latin America since the start of the pandemic, and 265,411 have died related to Covid-19. Brazil has 210 million inhabitants and is 24 times the size of Germany.

“This is the worst moment, and it will get worse,” said epidemiologist Diego Ricardo Xavier of the Rio de Janeiro research facility “Fundação Oswaldo Cruz” (Fiocruz) of the German news agency. The prestigious research institution wrote in a report that the simultaneous deterioration of several indicators could be observed across the country. And according to the newspaper “Valor,” senior officials from the Ministry of Health expect the threshold of 3,000 corona deaths to be exceeded every day for the next few weeks.

In several cemeteries in Rio, shallow graves in an area of ​​dry earth and stone floor are being prepared for burials on Saturday, the undertaker Douglas Silva in Caju only writes numbers on the cross of a buried person, which he exchanges. In Irajá, the day of the funeral is also on the back. The so-called covas rasas are the oldest and simplest type of burial and show the abysses of Brazilian society. Originally intended for the poor, the unnamed graves have become one of the few affordable options for many families to bury loved ones in the coronavirus pandemic.

Epidemiologist Diego Xavier hopes Brazil, the land of miracles, will not go as far as health ministry officials fear. But he knows one thing for sure: “Many people will die without being placed in an intensive care bed.” According to Fiocruz, intensive care beds are more than 80 percent used in 18 of the 27 states and in the metropolitan district.

After the Amazon metropolis of Manaus, which ran out of oxygen in January, the health system is now in danger of collapsing in several places at once, for example in regions in the southeast and south with stronger infrastructure. For example, in wealthy São Paulo, a patient is taken to hospital every two minutes. In the states of Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul, which are dominated by German immigrants, hospitals move patients and set up refrigerated containers for the corpses.

What’s happening now, the Fiocruz research institute predicted in December – before people gathered almost without restrictions for Christmas, New Year’s Eve, summer holidays and Carnival week. “Everything is here in Rio 8 or 80. If we had only narrowed things down a bit at the end of the year and during Carnival, we wouldn’t have to close everything now,” said another passerby. There is also a virus variant that appears to be more contagious and less sensitive to antibodies than the original virus – and can circulate freely.

“The big problem is the president,” said Diego Xavier. “He encourages people to get together, claims a mask doesn’t help.” Now governors are calling for a national pact of restrictive measures and more vaccines. However, President Jair Bolsonaro has already made it clear that there will never be a nationwide lockdown with him. A day after Brazil registered a maximum number of corona deaths within 24 hours for the second time in a row, Bolsonaro inaugurated a section of an inland rail line intended to transport soy and other agricultural products. ‘You didn’t stay at home. You weren’t a coward. No more “Mimimi”, he told the workers. “Mimimi” is a slang term for whining that the right-wing populist and his supporters use to fight the politically correct.

By mid-year, Fiocruz, whose vaccine plant in northern Rio is considered the largest in Latin America, plans to produce more than 110 million doses of Astrazeneca’s corona vaccine from imported drugs; and in the second half of the year, thanks to technology transfers, could also produce an additional 110 million cans completely independently.

Brazilians’ hopes now rest on a breakthrough in the stalled vaccinations – and that, as the country says, God is Brazilian.


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