Figures from the country’s Health Ministry report increasing cases and deaths, with the most recent figures topping 75,000 new daily infections and over 2,000 new virus-related fatalities, exceeding related statistics in the U.S.
Top officials at the World Health Organization on Friday reiterated serious concern over Brazil’s flooded health system, with ICU beds across the midwest and southern regions strapped for capacity, per Dr. Mike Ryan, the head of the WHO’s emergency services arm.
“The system is considerably pressurized right now,” Ryan said during a briefing.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called the situation “very concerning,” advising clear messaging from Brazilian authorities to enforce public health measures and tamp down additional deaths.
Brazil’s neighboring countries appear to be faring better, but the crisis still threatens to affect its surrounding areas and beyond, Tedros warned.
The crisis continues to escalate after Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro told Brazilians last week to “stop whining” amid record-high figures in COVID-19 fatalities, per multiple reports, and downplaying the severity of the pandemic.
The concern coincides with the ongoing circulation of a coronavirus variant, called P.1, which has already risen to a level of global concern.
Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s COVID-19 technical lead and an infectious disease epidemiologist, said several studies underway are attempting to quantify any increased transmissibility and virulence associated with the variant, and impact on vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics.
She noted the variant has mutations conferring increased transmissibility, and some studies do suggest increased transmissibility and severity, further complicating an already overwhelmed health system. Nevertheless, public health measures like mask use, physical distancing, hand hygiene and ventilation can drive transmission down and control variants, Kerkhove said.
Brazil has recorded at least 11.2 million coronavirus infections and over 270,000 related deaths, according to the Health Ministry.