Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – Rafael da Silva, 56, a hospital security guard, had been battling COVID-19 symptoms for just over a week when they began to strain. But when his family took him to hospital, he was sent home.
“Every doctor he treated offered him treatment as if it were a cold,” his son, Rafael da Silva Jr. told Al Jazeera.
After going down for four days, he was taken back to COVID-19 hospital with shortness of breath and put on oxygen. Doctors said da Silva Sr should be on an air conditioner.
“But there are no intensive care beds left,” his son said. “They’re trying to find a bed in the same field hospital in town but they’re all full.”
Da Silva is one of hundreds of patients in Rio de Janeiro in dire need of an intensive care bed as health officials warn the medical system is on the verge of collapse.
Long queues for intensive care beds are forming outside public health care systems across Rio de Janeiro with waiting times longer than 15 days for some COVID-19 patients.
Even in the private health care centers, 98 percent of COVID-19 intensive care beds had been occupied for two consecutive weeks, the Rio State Private Hospitals Association said. The number jumped from 81 percent to 98 percent in the first week of December.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has been outspoken against health officials over their treatment of the pandemic.
Bolsonaro has consistently described the coronavirus novel as a “minor flu” and said Thursday that Brazil was at the “tail end of the pandemic”.
The number of COVID-19 cases in Brazil peaked in late July, mid-winter, followed by three months of declining numbers. But government data shows an upward trend in diseases and deaths in the past month. More than 181,000 Brazilians have died from the new coronavirus, the second highest number in the world, and with more than 6.9 million coronavirus cases, Brazil is third behind the United States and India.
Hospital admissions are growing in the population centers of Sao Paulo and Rio De Janeiro. In Rio, 1,460 patients with COVID-19 were injured in the hospital last weekend. Of the 273 patients in emergency, 222 lacked COVID-19 beds according to government data.
National health authorities say an increase in illness appears to be due to respite from social distance measures and lockouts, as well as the return of overcrowded events such as last month’s city elections and crowded live events.
“The most natural explanation for the rise in disease is to make activities more flexible, with many people recurring public transport and other environments,” explained Daniel Villela, a researcher at the COVID Observatory- 19 and coordinator of the Fiocruz Scientific Computing Program.
The second wave
Villela also told Al Jazeera that while Brazil is entering what many call a second wave, the country has never emerged since its first one.
“The number of cases slowed after peaking in the middle of the year but even with a decline, it never reached low levels,” he says.
For now, 21 of the 26 Brazilian states are experiencing a growth in coronavirus cases. Out of this total, seven have COVID-19 intensive care bed occupancy rates higher than 80 percent, according to Fiocruz.
Last week, the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul recorded a 47 percent increase in deaths. State governor Eduardo Leite said it is harder than the winter uprising.
Tedos Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization (WHO), has urged Brazil to be “very, very bad” about the rising numbers of coronavirus diseases.
Some health experts have blamed the Brazilian president for spreading disinfection and for not giving clear instructions to the public.
“Tackling behavior requires social distance, alienation and population decline. But the government has not proposed any precautionary measures, instead of treating scientifically proven drugs such as Hydroxychloroquine, ”said Julio Croda, a disease researcher at Fiocruz.
Gulnar Azevedo, president of the Brazilian Association of Public Health (ABRASCO), says the government’s failure to unveil a strategic plan to counter COVID-19, has left states and cities to fend for themselves. creation.
“Many have died due to government disorganization,” she told Al Jazeera.
‘More deaths this time’
In Rio de Janeiro, a lockout was implemented at the beginning of the pandemic. While there was little adherence to the regulations, several businesses were closed and several field hospitals were set up to treat up-and-coming COVID-19 patients.
But as the country survives a second wave, the public seems to have lost interest in pandemics.
Despite the spike in issues, Brazilians do not follow health guidelines. Rio de Janeiro’s beaches, bars and nightclubs, many without masks and measures of social isolation in place, are full.
“In many states and within the favelas, there are many potential carriers of COVID-19 who are not wearing masks or social distance. I think there will be many more deaths this time around, ”said a government official working with COVID-19 data, who asked to remain anonymous as he was not authorized to speak to reporters.
Throughout the pandemic, Bolsonaro has taken control of state regulators for enforcing locksmiths or restrictions, shouting the economic consequences too harsh.
Even the prospect of vaccination has become political with an opposition party demanding to hear Bolsonaro ‘s vaccination plan – which has no start date and with a vaccine distributed for about a quarter of the population initially. The country’s health regulator has not yet agreed on a vaccine. Fiocruz researcher Margareth Dalcolmo said Brazil was “six months late in their vaccination plan”.
The executive secretary of the health ministry, Elcio Franco, said last month that there will not be enough vaccines for the whole population. “Our goal is to vaccinate 80 million Brazilians every year,” he said. Brazil has a population of 212 million.
In the absence of a national game plan, local officials have begun making independent plans.
Sao Paolo ‘s governor, Joao Doria, has unveiled his own vaccination strategy, promising to start rolling out the vaccine in January. Last week, Sao Paulo recorded 309 deaths, the highest level in 10 weeks.
Rio de Janeiro ‘s re – mayor, Eduardo Paes, dismissed a new lock as “absolutely unnecessary”. Paes said he plans to open more COVID-19 intensive care beds and roll out rapid tests to the capital at the beginning of his term in January.
Last week, Rio city hall announced it was “assessing” whether to take on New Year’s Eve celebrations across the city.
Niteroi, a city in the city of Rio de Janeiro, has already announced a ban on New Year’s events, including house parties.
As COVID-19 cases escalate, the Sao Paulo state government announced Friday that it would reduce business opening hours and close bars early.
New Year’s Eve parties are also banned in Sao Paulo’s bars, restaurants and hotels, with the state government urging families to celebrate at home.
In the southernmost state of Brazil, which spans Argentina and Uruguay, Rio Grande do Sul governor Eduardo Leite has also banned public and private New Year’s events.
Many health officials fear that, without adequate vaccinations, with unprepared medical services and the upcoming holiday celebration, health systems that are already on the verge of completion could collapse completely.
“January is a tragedy just waiting to happen,” said researcher Julio Croda.