Covid: Brazil tops 400,000 coronavirus deaths amid fears of renewed surge

Brazil is only the second country in the world to pass 400,000 deaths. Credit: AP/Press Association Images

More than 400,000 people have died with Covid-19 in Brazil, making it only the second country in the world to top the grim milestone.

The huge death toll comes amid warnings from some health experts that another wave could hit the South American nation as the Southern Hemisphere heads into winter.

The only country with more coronavirus deaths than Brazil is the US, which has seen 574,978 fatalities.

April was Brazil’s deadliest month of the pandemic, with thousands of people losing their lives daily at crowded hospitals and more than 100,000 people dying in one month.

The country’s Health Ministry registered more than 4,000 deaths on two days early in the month, and its seven-day average topped out at above 3,100.

That figure has tilted downward in the last two weeks, to less than 2,400 deaths per day, though on Thursday the Health Ministry announced another 3,001 deaths, bringing Brazil’s total to 401,186.

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro is being investigated over his handling of the pandemic. Credit: Eraldo Peres/AP

Local health experts have celebrated the recent decline of cases and deaths, plus the eased pressure on the Brazilian health care system — but only modestly.

They are apprehensive of another wave of the disease, like those seen in some European nations, due to a premature resumption of activity in states and cities combined with slow vaccination rollout.

Less than 6% of Brazilians have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, according to Our World in Data, an online research site.

President Jair Bolsonaro, who is now being investigated by a Senate panel over his administration’s handling of the crisis, has repeated he will be the last to get a shot and he has attacked mayors and governors who enforce restrictions to control the virus’ spread.

Epidemiologist Wanderson Oliveira, one of the Health Ministry’s top officials at the start of the pandemic, said he expects a third wave to hit by mid-June.

He told radio station CBN on Tuesday that the country’s immunisation effort will not prevent a new surge because many people will not receive shots before winter, when indoor gatherings and activities are more common even in the tropical nation.

“Our vaccination is such that in 2022 maybe we will have a much less tragic summer than we did now,” he said, referring to the last few months.

He added he expects limited help from local leaders’ partial shutdowns, which have yielded weaker results than European-style lockdowns.

Many Brazilians flouted social distancing recommendations and partial shutdowns even in the throes of the pandemic’s peak.

Listen to Coronavirus: What You Need To Know - the Covid-19 podcast from ITV News