SAO PAULO – The novel coronavirus has spread to nearly every part of Brazil’s territory and now is particularly affecting vulnerable interior cities where health infrastructure is more precarious than in the largest metropolises.
Since the country’s first COVID-19 death was confirmed 100 days ago, on March 16, the coronavirus has crept into virtually every corner of Brazil and currently is present in almost 90 percent of the country’s 5,570 municipalities.
Roughly 52,000 deaths, or an average of 528 per day, have been attributed to the pandemic in the South American country. The nation has more than 1 million confirmed coronavirus cases, although the real number is “very likely” around 10 million, Roberto Medronho, a Brazilian infectious disease expert, told EFE this week.
Coronavirus cases in Brazil initially were centered on large metropolises such as Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, but have spread steadily over the last 100 days to cities in the country’s interior, where the infection curve is continuing to rise.
In fact, the interior of Sao Paulo state now has more confirmed cases than the Sao Paulo metropolitan area for the first time since the start of the health emergency in Brazil.
Even so, the government of that state – the country’s largest with 46 million of its 210 million inhabitants and the one most affected by the pandemic – is proceeding with the plan it launched early this month to ease social-distancing measures.
Gov. Joao Doria announced on Wednesday that the state’s 13.3 million grade school students will gradually return to their classrooms under a rotation system that will kick off on Sept. 8.
The schools’ capacity will be at 35 percent in the first phase before rising to 70 percent and 100 percent in the second and third phases, respectively.
But the return to traditional face-to-face instruction will only be possible in areas of the state that remain at phase three of their economic reopening (the level in which retail establishments such as restaurants, bars and barber shops are allowed to reopen) for a period of three weeks.
“We’re constructing a plan with well-defined social-distancing protocols, monitoring of students’ health, personal hygiene and school environments to guarantee safety,” the governor said at a press conference.
While Sao Paulo moves to lift economic restrictions, other urban areas such as the southern city of Florianopolis that had started to reopen have been forced to reverse course and announce the closure of malls and gyms due to a spike in coronavirus cases.
Brazil currently ranks second worldwide in deaths attributed to COVID-19 after the United States (121,225) and ahead of the United Kingdom (43,011), Italy (34,675), France (29,723) and Spain (28,325), four European countries that are past their peak of daily coronavirus cases and are moving forward with their economic reopening plans.
The South American country’s COVID-19 death toll is more than double that of Mexico (23,377) and almost four times that of India (14,476), which respectively rank seventh and eighth globally.
On Tuesday, Brazil registered 1,364 coronavirus-related deaths, the country’s second-highest number of fatalities in a single day after the 1,470 deaths it reported on June 4.