Brazil faces a new wave of covid-19 amid the advance of the omicron variant, that has quadrupled the cases in a week and whose real impact is unknown due to the lack of sufficient tests and computer problems for counting the data. The positives in the South American country, one of the most affected in the world by the pandemic, have skyrocketed from the 56,881 notified between December 26 and January 1 to the 208,018 of the last week, according to the National Council of Health Secretaries (Conass).
The explosion of infected with covid-19 also coincides with H3N2 influenza outbreaks that have put primary care systems on the ropes from large cities in the country, such as São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. But nevertheless, deaths remain at a stable level, over one hundred a day, and the abrupt increase in cases is not putting pressure on intensive care units for the moment.
“It has been a long time since we have seen so many positive diagnoses. It is a very large number, although it has not been reflected in an expressive increase in income “, explained the infectologist. Marcelo daher, physician and consultant for the Brazilian Society of Infectology. Daher expect a much greater increase in infections in the coming weeks in a country deeply hit by the pandemic, with almost 620 thousand deaths and 22.5 million cases.
Omicron expands in the dark
Behind this new wave, which began to be noticed only after the Christmas holidays, is the spread of the Omicron variant, first detected in South Africa on November 25 and, according to preliminary studies, much more transmissible but less lethal. It arrived in Brazil five days later and within a month it has become the dominant variant without the Brazilians noticing.
This is because On December 10, the computer systems of the Ministry of Health suffered an alleged hacker attack that left the monitoring of the pandemic in the dark. During the last month, states, municipalities and laboratories have not been able to register the data on infections and deaths normally.
Only as of this week the platforms have started to function properly, although they still face difficulties. “What we see on a daily basis is not being reflected in the disclosed data”, indicated Daher.
Added to this “blackout” of statistics is the lack of testing. Finding a diagnostic test in São Paulo pharmacies is almost mission impossible. According to information from the Metropoles portal, The Ministry of Health halved the distribution of tests for states and municipalities between November and December, from 5.7 million to 2.7 million.
In this framework, the mayors of 2,100 Brazilian cities requested help from the government of President Jair Bolsonaro, who insists on denying the seriousness of the pandemic, to acquire rapid tests and strengthen primary care.
The President’s Anti-Vaccine Campaign
Bolsonaro continues his crusade against vaccinating children between the ages of 5 and 11 against coronavirus, authorized by the National Health Surveillance Agency (Anvisa) on December 16 and only released by the government 20 days later. The president, who is proud not to have been vaccinated, questioned Anvisa’s neutrality and hinted that he was guided by his own interests in giving the green light to childhood immunization. “What is the interest of Anvisa? What is the interest of those people impaired by the vaccine?”, questioned the ruler in an interview with a local media.
The tension rose this Saturday with the response of the director of Anvisa, Antonio Barra Torres, in a harsh and unusual open letter in which he invited the head of state to denounce any indication of irregularity. “Now, if you do not have such information or evidence, exercise the greatness that your position demands, and by the God that you quote so much, shrink“demanded the head of the highest health authority of the South American country.
The anticovid vaccination of the child public was authorized by Anvisa on December 16 with the Pfizer formula, but the Ministry of Health did not include that population group in its immunization plan until last Wednesday due to the resistance of Bolsonaro.
Despite the president’s denial, the Brazilian population, which is estimated at 213 million people, mostly embraces the vaccine. 75 percent have received the first dose and 67 percent already have the full regimen.