Brazil Reaches 150,000 Deaths from Covid-19 Milestone

Brazil's count of Covid-19 deaths exceeded 150,000 on Saturday night, amid signs of a slow pandemic decline in Latin America's largest nation.

The Brazilian health ministry reported that the death toll is now at 150,198. The figure is the second highest in the world behind the United States, according to a tally maintained by Johns Hopkins University, reports AP.  

The milestone has rekindled the pain of Naiane Moura, a sales consultant who lost her father, Elivaldo, to COVID 19 in April. The 58-year-old postman had no previous illness and battled CovidD-19 for seven days in a public hospital in Manaus, Brazil's largest city in the Amazon.

"When I see 150,000, I see my father alongside many other faceless bodies," Moura said by phone. "I didn't imagine that we would reach that number. I don't believe that we will ever be able to totally overcome this."

Brazil's far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, has minimized the severity of the epidemic, whereas Brazil's deaths have risen rapidly. The 65-year-old president flouted social distancing at vibrant protests and invited people to leave the presidential residence.

Bolsonaro rejected governors 'and mayors' lockdowns and other tough steps to curb the spread of the virus, even after he had contracted it himself in July, maintaining that shutting down Brazil 's economy would bring the country into turmoil.

"Life goes on. Brazil needs to produce," he said on July 7 in Brasilia when he announced he was infected.

Moura's hometown of Manaus became an early pandemic horror show. Between April and May, the health system collapsed in the city as patients were turned away from full hospitals and overcrowded cemeteries were forced to dig mass graves. The capital of the state of Amazonas had 122 deaths per 100,000 people, well above the national average of 71 per 100,000. The nation of 210 million people outperformed 5 million confirmed infections on Wednesday, according to official statistics.

Latest signs of relief have occurred in Brazil. The viral curve has fallen over the last month and a half. The average number of deaths in the last 7 days was 598, the lowest since the beginning of May.

Mayors of major cities such as Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro continue to reopen events such as cinemas and schools, as well as public health experts alert against potential new outbreaks.

Manaus, where restrictions have been relaxed, has seen a rise in Covid-19 cases in recent weeks, which has contributed to the possibility of a potential second wave. Local authorities re-established controls on trade and activity and shut down the beach.

Moura said that she holds the federal authorities responsible for the large death toll.

"A lot of lives could have been saved if our leaders had taken rigorous measures in the beginning," she said.

Bolsonaro has faced fierce criticism of his handling of the health crisis, and changed health ministers twice in the midst of the pandemic. Yet his popularity is at its highest since he took office in January 2019, which political analysts attribute to his distribution of emergency cash to help tens of millions of poorer Brazilians withstand the economic downturn. Some 40% of Brazilians surveyed by pollster Ibope rate their government as good or excellent, according to a poll published September 24 that has a margin for error of 2 percentage points. "Bolsonaro helped the population to open their eyes. Health has to go hand in hand with the economy, "said Paulo Gomes, 54, a taxi driver who supports Bolsonaro.

In Sao Paulo, Ricardo Vieira, a doctor employed in one of the largest working-class communities in the city known as favelas, said the government's Covid-19 cash transfer scheme was not enough to protect the vulnerable, who often have scarce access to healthcare.

To address the lack of help in the favela of Paraisopolis, the G10 NGO employed three private ambulances and eight health professionals, including Dr Vieira, who has been there since March.

"We are dealing with lives, and when we came to a poor community we saw that the government cannot reach these people," Vieira told The Associated Press.

Despite the difficulties and the lack of resources, Vieira continues to fight to contain the pandemic's devastation.

"I do what I can, I do my best," Vieira said, as tears welled up then rolled down his cheek. "And I don't know what else I could do."


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