SAO PAULO – Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro brought 10 days of celebration to an end on Monday, during which their city authorities have tried to limit the rapid spread of COVID-19, which remains out of control in Brazil and could accelerate even more after Holy Week.
Sao Paulo and Rio, with 22,725 and 20,987 COVID deaths, respectively, are the two Brazilian cities hardest hit by the pandemic, a situation that forced the local city halls to reschedule assorted festivals in an attempt to spur social distancing and thus limit the spread of the pandemic.
However, the huge crowds, clandestine parties, Holy Week religious celebrations and in-person events that have prevailed during this period have once again caused alarm among health experts, who fear a resurgence of the pandemic and its impact on the health care system over the coming days.
“Many people saw … the festivals as a time of leisure, not working and ended up traveling in (Brazil’s) interior or to the coast, which doesn’t help in limiting the virus,” epidemiologist Ethel Maciel told EFE.
With an average of more than 3,000 people dying of COVID-19 each day – and the figure nearing 4,000 – Brazil is the country with the second-highest number of cases after the US, while the vaccination campaign is proceeding slowly due to the lack of vaccine doses and supplies to manufacture them.
In addition, March was the deadliest month in the pandemic so far with 66,573 deaths, compared with 30,438 in February, and the South American giant has suffered a total of 331,433 deaths since March 12, 2020, when the first COVID death was registered, according to figures from the Health Ministry.
Epidemiologist Igor Maia Marinho said that the lack of control over the health crisis is a “direct reflection” of public non-compliance with the regulations restricting various activities and gatherings in December and January, a situation that now could repeat itself after the Easter season.
“What we’re seeing is that with these family gatherings, like Christmas, New Year’s and Carnival, immediately we’re going to be seeing a big increase in the number of hospitalizations, two or three weeks after those gatherings,” he told EFE.
“The celebrations at home, among families, are especially worrying because they give that false sense of security that everyone’s protected,” he added.
Given the serious scenario and the possible relaxation of restrictions in the coming days, both experts urged the adoption of more restrictive measures to avoid reaching the 5,000 deaths per day level, which could occur in the coming weeks.
“Some states adopted restrictions, but in an isolated manner, and there’s no coordinated action on the national level. We’re still having very high numbers of new daily cases and we’ll see the results in the coming two, three or four weeks,” Maciel said.
Added to the lack of national action is the slowness of Brazil’s immunization program, which has only managed to vaccinate a few more than 9 percent of its 212 million people since the start of the campaign in mid-January.
Despite the elevated figures, the quarantines already are beginning to show modest signs of improving the pandemic figures, above all in terms of stabilizing the number of admitted patients, although its definitive effects will only begin to be felt over the next two weeks.
“At this time, we’re seeing a reduction in hospitalizations, and it seems that we’re beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel,” Marinho said.
However, he went on to warn that both the case numbers and the deaths will continue rising in April before they start to drop.