Coronavirus variants are running rampant in Brazil, bringing the country's medical system to the brink of collapse.
The hard hit south American nation has been ravaged by Covid, with a new strain dubbed P1 being blamed for a surge in cases and deaths as the situation rapidly spirals out of control.
Funeral homes in the country have been told to triple their stock of coffins. The alert was issued, local media reported, in a bid to avoid dramatic scenes including unseemly burials in mass graves.
The nation of 211 million is currently averaging more than 70,000 new infections a day, according to official data, while daily deaths are at their peak of around 2,000 a day.
A shortage of critical drugs and ICU beds is also threatening to drive the death rate significantly higher. The same goes for willing and able intensive care staff.
"Intensive care doctors are a commodity in short supply,” César Eduardo Fernandes, the president of the Brazilian Medical Association (AMB) told Reuters.
“There’s no way to meet this brutal, catastrophic demand.”
Hospitals are reportedly running out of critical medicines needed to sedate patients for intubation, with doctors turning to veterinary clinics for sedatives and other useful medicines.
The front page of a daily newspaper published Thursday (local time) in the wealthy city of São Paulo – the fourth largest newspaper in the country – summed up the healthcare situation with a single word: "Colapso"
Brail variant 'could trigger another pandemic'
Brazil is now accounting for one in every six coronavirus infections reported worldwide, according to data compiled by Reuters.
Public health experts are sounding the alarm about the crisis unfolding in the county, including epidemiologist and Senior Fellow at the Federation of American Scientists, Eric Feigl-Ding.
"The rest of the world cannot ignore the crisis in Brazil any longer. Brazil’s hospital system is being completely crushed. It needs international aid, or else P1 will trigger another pandemic if it proliferates around the world," he tweeted overnight.
He shared an image of the different regions of Brazil showing all but one region's ICU hospitalisation rate turning critical throughout the month of March.
Intensive care units in 25 of 26 states are filled beyond 80 per cent capacity. Nineteen state capitals have passed 90 per cent capacity, according to the Fiocruz biomedical institute.
"We are seeing patients arriving at a speed that we can’t handle," said Flávia Machado, the head of intensive care at the Hospital São Paulo.
"This causes us health professionals, who are already tired, an additional stress as we know that we are not serving everyone who needs us."
Brazil's vaccine rollout patchy
Driven by an infectious new variant, a lack of containment measures, a chaotic federal response and a patchy vaccine rollout, Latin America’s biggest country has become the epicentre of the global pandemic.
It has posted record daily deaths and caseloads this week, even as many countries are beating back the coronavirus with immunisation drives, creating a major problem for the country's rightwing president Jair Bolsonaro who had consistently tried to downplay the virus.
Brazil has administered at least 12,682,290 doses of COVID vaccines so far. Assuming every person needs 2 doses, that’s enough to have vaccinated about 3 per cent of the country’s population.
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