Brazil has never recorded so many cases of covid-19 at the same time as it does now. In the last 30 days, the average number of people infected every 24 hours has increased nearly 40-fold. The week ending this Saturday (22) is already the worst in the country since the first reports of the coronavirus on national soil.
Even before the end of the period and the closing of the data, more than 770 thousand new confirmations of the disease were reported. The previous record, recorded in March last year, was 539,000.
The numbers can be even more expressive, since the system of the Ministry of Health, which collects information from the states, was offline for more than a month. Virologist Rômulo Neris points out that the damage to the information has not yet been fully reversed
“It is a very complex scenario and very difficult to make accurate and adequate forecasts, we are coming from almost a month of blackout of cases. We need to consider that it was at the beginning of the blackout that the ômicrom variant began to consolidate here in Brazil. When we lose open access to this system, it ends up harming a lot of our monitoring and surveillance efforts”
A member of the Halo Team, an initiative of the United Nations (UN) that brings together experts from around the world in actions to combat coronavirus, Neris also warns of the impact that the shortage of tests has on the number of registered cases.
“We don’t have a sufficient testing standard for the number of individuals who are showing symptoms and being considered suspects”, emphasizes the virologist.
Out of paper, the numbers point out that the exhaustion of the health system may be close. According to data from the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, as of January 15, four states already had intensive care units (ICU) occupation at a critical level, above 80%: Pernambuco (86%), Mato Grosso (84%), Goiás (81% ) and Espírito Santo (80%).
Although with slightly less expressive rates, the alert extends to another 11 units of the federation, which have more than 60% of ICU beds occupied: Amazonas (77%), Tocantins (76%), Distrito Federal (74%), Ceará (71%), Piauí (67%), Bahia (66%), Rio Grande do Norte (65%), Mato Grosso do Sul (65%), Pará (63%), Roraima (60%) and Maranhão ( 60%).
It is not only Fiocruz that points to an upward trend in the number of ICU vacancies. A report by the National Association of Private Hospitals (Anahp) points out that the occupancy of the units increased from 40.84% between December 25th and 31st of last year, to 58.75% between January 8th and 14th this year. There was also a worsening of the scenario in the outpatient clinics, from 47.31% to 77.07%.
In the reports that come from states and municipalities, the escalation of covid has practical consequences. The government of São Paulo, for example, reported that the number of children and adolescents who need ICU admission has increased by more than 60% in the last two months.
::With a predominance of ômicron, Brazil has the highest transmission rate since March 2021::
In Rio Grande do Sul, the state management fears a shortage of beds as of next month and requested that the Ministry of Health not carry out the planning to stop funding more than a thousand units that are at risk of being closed.
The capital of Ceará, Fortaleza, has reports of 100% occupancy for children’s beds in at least three large hospitals. The situation is similar in Manaus, Amazonas. In Rondônia, the government decided to reopen beds in the capital Rondonia, after occupation reached 90%.
In the interior of São Paulo, the city of Campinas reported that the waiting list for high complexity beds in the SUS has more than 100 people. In Uberaba, Minas Gerais, crowding is also critical.
The list of cities facing critical crowding only grows. In it are also Cuiabá, Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte, Salvador, Recife and several others in the interior and metropolitan regions of the whole country.
The increase in the number of contaminations is not reflected in the growth of deaths in the same proportion as that observed last year. In April, the country recorded more than 3,000 fatal cases in 24 hours.
Today, the daily average is less than 300. Even so, the total number of deaths per day has been growing in recent weeks. According to Rômulo Néris, it is likely that Brazil will not reach levels of deaths similar to the worst scenarios of the pandemic. The main reason for this is the advancement of vaccination.
Still, with the unprecedented growth of cases, deaths are likely to rise. “It is possible that we will see an increase, which will consolidate even more robustly from now on, now that we are seeing these record numbers of cases. It was no different in other countries.”
::Nicolelis: “With the transmission rate it has, ômicron will suffocate health systems”::
The virologist warns that the total number of unvaccinated people, however, is still high and represents a risk. “A quarter of the population has not taken any dose of the vaccine. At least a third did not complete the two-dose regimen. It’s a lot of people.”
Highly transmissible, the ômicrom – variant that predominates in Brazil – places these people in a situation of great vulnerability. “It doesn’t matter that it is a milder variant, if it infects at a rate ten times greater”, explains Neris. He warns that the lack of control of transmission hampers the possibility of containing new strains.
“Every time a new variant appears, indirectly, we have the feeling that this is our final enemy. But we cannot control how much a virus is capable of modifying itself. What will happen to these variants? This is impossible to predict,” concluded the virologist.
Editing: Vinicius Segalla