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Brazil closes the month of March with another record of deaths caused by the coronavirus: there were 3,869 notifications in the last 24 hours. Despite the escalation of the pandemic in the country “the current global epicenter, with collapsed health systems in all regions”, the Federal Government does not consider it a lockdown national. The measure has been advocated for months by epidemiologists as the only way to stop contagion in the short term and minimize hospital pressure, while countries in Europe, in a much less serious situation, such as France, have again adopted severe restrictions. The Bolsonaro government has even belatedly embraced the defense of mass vaccination (still with no prospect of being achieved in the short term), but it does not offer more immediate solutions to prevent deaths and minimize the chaos that is installed in hospitals. There are thousands of people in the hospitalization line, there is a lack of medication for intubation and oxygen. Meanwhile, the Government and Congress are preparing a turn to expand the participation of the private sector in vaccination against covid-19, a movement criticized by experts until the country is able to vaccinate the priority groups.
“We are just weeks away from a point of no return in the coronavirus crisis in Brazil”, says the neuroscientist and professor at Duke University (USA), Miguel Nicolelis, in his column at EL PAÍS. He estimates that, soon, the country could reach from 4,000 to 5,000 daily deaths by covid-19. And it projects a catastrophic scenario for July, with Brazil reaching a total of 500,000 victims of the pandemic. So far, March has been the most lethal month of the pandemic, when the country recorded more than 66,000 deaths from covid-19 in a single month. Nicolelis fears that, in addition to the health system, funeral services will also collapse, should the call to a lockdown national, with non-essential circulation blocks at airports and roads, is not met. In the most populous capital of the country, São Paulo, cemeteries started operating at night to cope with the demand for burials. “If the funeral collapse sets in in this country, we will start to see bodies being abandoned on the streets, in open spaces. We will have to use the terrible resource of using mass graves to bury hundreds of people simultaneously, without funeral urns, only in plastic bags, which will accelerate the process of contamination of the soil, groundwater, food, and thereby generate a series other very serious bacterial epidemics ”, he enumerates. Even so, the Federal Government continues to reject measures with national restrictions.
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On the same day that Brazil recorded the highest number of deaths since the beginning of the pandemic until now, President Jair Bolsonaro again criticized social isolation and asked governors to retreat from the restrictive measures they have adopted, with touches of restriction and closing the business. “We only have one way: to let the people work. The side effects of fighting the pandemic cannot be more damaging than the virus itself, ”he said, without a mask, when announcing the return of reduced emergency aid. Minutes before, his Minister of Health, Marcelo Queiroga, and the presidents of the Chamber and the Senate, Arthur Lira and Rodrigo Pacheco, had defended social distance and the use of masks as preventive measures, but without mentioning the need for restrictive measures. From the first meeting of the national confrontation committee to covid-19, they brought a discourse of union between the powers to mitigate the crisis, the defense of mass vaccination and the preparation of a legislative shift to allow private companies to buy immunizers and to be able to immunize their employees and family members without having to deliver all doses to SUS, as recommended by current laws.
“There is a discussion that starts today in the Chamber and it has to be transparent, which is the possibility for the private sector to also purchase vaccines, so that the entrepreneur can vaccinate his employees and their families, to maintain his company, his business , standing ”, defended Lira. The permission to purchase vaccines by the private sector has been criticized by experts, who argue that it is the role of SUS to distribute doses evenly in the country and that it would be appropriate to allow the entry of the private sector only when most of the priority groups, most vulnerable covid-19, is immunized. Lira, however, says he sees no conflict of interest. “Essentially, we are in a time of war and in war anything goes to save lives. (…) Any vaccinated Brazilian is one less in the statistics of the virus. ” Despite political movements to remove the bonds of the private sector in the acquisition of vaccines, it is unlikely that businessmen will be able to make purchases in the short term, as the world faces a global race for medicines and most pharmaceutical companies maintain that, at the moment, they sell doses only for the public authorities.
The Brazilian Government itself, which says it has already contracted more than 560 million doses, has had difficulties with the delivery schedule. So far, only 6.2% of this amount has been distributed to the States and the arrival of new lots is still fraught with uncertainties, whether due to production delays or difficulties in importing. Minister Marcelo Queiroga has said that his goal is to vaccinate one million people a day in April – half the pace that he himself estimates that the PNI is capable of achieving, if there were enough immunizers. Without mass vaccination or lockdown nationally, Brazil continues in a chaotic escalation in the health units and beats successive records of daily deaths by the covid-19. There are people dying in line for an ICU and health facilities operating with insufficient and exhausted medical teams. There is a lack of structure, medicine and even oxygen. The Minister of Health admits that the national park does not meet the current demand for inputs and says that he is negotiating the import of medicines while he studies diverting the production of industrial oxygen to hospitals with the companies.
Queiroga has repeated that he will follow science and even asks for the cooperation of the population to wear masks and avoid “futile agglomerations”, rehearsing a defense for social distance that did not used to be made by his predecessor Eduardo Pazuello. But neither does he contradict the boss about the lockdown, that he considers an “extreme measure” that does not usually have population adherence. “The population needs to adhere to this [distanciamento social], but it is not with the law ”, he says. This Wednesday (31), Queiroga was questioned in a public hearing in the Chamber of Deputies about what he intended to do to save young people, who fill intensive care beds in hospitals at this stage of the health crisis and are still a long way from entering apt to be vaccinated. “The solution for young people is to have vaccines. We are looking for vaccines very strongly ”, he replied, admitting the difficulty of getting deliveries in the short term.
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