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Brazil operates as COVID-19 cases increase; hospitals, under pressure from the economy by Reuters

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: People are waiting for medical care and tests for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at Princess Isabel’s Palace, where a health unit specializing in COVID-19 and flu symptoms has been set up in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. January 12


By Pedro Fonseca and Eduardo Simões

RIO DE JANEIRO / SAO PAULO (Reuters) – Brazil is experiencing a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases as the Omicron variant spreads across the country, putting pressure on health services and a growing sputtering economy.

Hacker-affected and lack of adequate data shutdown. it is more difficult for experts to follow the spread of a highly contagious variant in Brazil, but there are increasingly clear signs that the largest nation in Latin America is being hit hard.

Confirmed cases have almost doubled since last week, rising to an average of 52,500 in the last seven days, from 27,267 last Wednesday.

Experts believe that the actual number is much higher due to the lack of tests and irregular systems for reporting and making public.

So far, the death toll – about 120 a day – remains much lower than last year, with Brazil being the epicenter of the global pandemic that briefly killed more than 3,000 people a day.

With more than 620,000 deaths, Brazil has the third highest number of COVID-19 deaths, behind the United States and Russia, according to Reuters estimates.

President Jair Bolsonaro has been widely criticized for handling the pandemic, protesting against the blockade, refusing to use the mask in public, and not being able to get vaccinated.

Epidemiologists hope that a strong vaccination campaign, which has completely inoculated 67% of the population, will reduce the impact of the current wave of infection.

But as demand for health services rises, hospitals are also suffering from staff shortages, as doctors and nurses are self-isolating after a positive virus.

“If you don’t know a friend who has the virus at the moment, it means you have no friends,” said César Eduardo Fernandes, head of the Brazilian Medical Association (AMB).

“The situation is worrying and some services may collapse,” he said, adding that hospital staffing had tripled in the four weeks since the Omicron wave hit.

On Friday, a medical union in São Paulo threatened a strike next Wednesday to demand reinforcements from doctors working in public clinics in the country’s largest cities. The union said the front-line doctors were suffering from fatigue and poor staff because they were forced to isolate their infected colleagues.


The variant is also hitting a wide economy. According to the Brazilian National Restaurant Association, 85% of its members are facing staff absences, with about 20% of their staff being away.

Airplanes Azul SA (NYSE 🙂 and Latam Airlines Group were forced to cancel their flights due to staff shortages, creating long queues at some airports.

To try to alleviate the effect, the Ministry of Health has this week reduced the quarantine period for patients without COVID-19 to seven days from 10.

Several states have canceled Carnival (NYSE 🙂 celebrations in a bid to slow the spread. Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo have both banned the famous street parties, although for now both cities are still hosting a samba parade.

Scientists are concerned that the full scale of the occurrence could only be clarified in the coming weeks.

Some Ministry of Health databases have been offline since an apparent ransomware attack on December 10 severely hampered the government’s ability to collect data from state health authorities. The test remains well below that of South American members.

“We have no reliable data,” said Alexandre Naime Barbosa, head of epidemiology at Sao Paulo State University.

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