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    《TAIPEI TIMES》 Third pandemic wave hits as Brazil surpasses half-million virus deaths

    
People watch the sunset at the Plaza del Cruzeiro during Mass in Brasilia on Saturday.
Photo: EPA-EFE

    People watch the sunset at the Plaza del Cruzeiro during Mass in Brasilia on Saturday. Photo: EPA-EFE

    2021/06/21 03:00

    / AFP, RIO DE JANEIRO

    Brazil on Saturday became the second country after the US to surpass 500,000 COVID-19 deaths as the South American giant grapples with a third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Brazilian Minister of Health Marcelo Queiroga wrote on Twitter: “500,000 lives lost due to the pandemic that affects our Brazil and the world.”

    The Brazilian Ministry of Health reported 500,800 deaths, including 2,301 in the past 24 hours, a number that many experts say underestimates the real toll from the pandemic.

    Last week, the average number of daily deaths surpassed 2,000 for the first time since May 10.

    “The third wave is arriving, there’s already a change in the case and death curves,” Ethel Maciel, an epidemiologist from Espirito Santo University, told reporters. “Our vaccination [program], which could make a difference, is slow and there are no signs of restrictive measures, quite the contrary.”

    In large cities, life seems almost back to normal, with restaurants, bars and shops open, and many people in the streets not wearing masks.

    Yet the situation is critical in 19 of Brazil’s 27 states, with more than 80 percent occupancy of intensive care beds. In nine of those states it is more than 90 percent.

    The “second wave,” from January to April this year, was particularly deadly.

    The number of deaths increased exponentially with the arrival of the Gamma virus variant that originated in Manaus, in the north of Brazil.

    It gradually began to fall last month, thanks in part to the closure of businesses when the pandemic was at its worst.

    However, many epidemiologists believe lockdown restrictions were lifted too soon at a time when daily deaths were still up around the 2,000 mark.

    Contrary to what has been seen in Europe, there has been no real trough between the different waves in Brazil.

    “I don’t know if it’s a third wave ... it seems we never got out of the first one,” said Alexandre da Silva, a specialist in public health at the University of Sao Paulo. “It seems the pandemic has now turned into a marathon runner who is pacing his race. It’s not a sprinter who does his sprint, but then loses power.”

    Brazil has received several batches of vaccines, including from US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, but the country has only managed to fully vaccinate 11 percent of the population, with 29 percent receiving one dose.

    Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who previously hit out at vaccines, has promised to immunize the entire population by the end of the year — something specialists consider unlikely.

    Bolsonaro has been criticized for downplaying the pandemic from the outset, opposing lockdown measures and plugging unproven medical treatments for COVID-19, and on Saturday thousands of Brazilians again took to the streets in protest against him.

    In rallies in Rio de Janeiro, Brasilia and elsewhere, people carried banners with slogans like “Bolsonaro must go” or simply “500,000.”

    新聞來源:TAIPEI TIMES

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