BRAZIL’S brutal Covid-19 plague has been branded a “biological Fukushima” by worried scientists after daily deaths surged past the 4,000 mark.
Hospitals are now at breaking point with people dropping dead as they await treatment amid the rise of super-mutant strains which “threaten” the global fight against the virus.
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Dr Miguel Nicolelis, a former regional co-ordinator of the country’s pandemic response team, described Brazil’s response to the crisis as a “complete calamity”.
“It’s the largest human tragedy in Brazilian history,” he told the BBC. “We may get to 500,000 deaths by July 1, that’s the latest estimate.
“But the University of Washington released another estimate suggesting if the rate of transmission goes up by about 10 per cent, we could get to 600,000 deaths.
“It’s a nuclear reactor that has set off a chain reaction and is out of control. It’s a biological Fukushima.”
His comment was a reference to the shocking explosion at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan sparked by a tsunami in 2011.
He also warned of the increased threat of worrying new strains of the virus as the death toll hit 337,000 – now second only to the US on 555,000.
Dr Nicolelis said: “Brazil is now not only epicentre of the pandemic worldwide it’s a threat to entire effort of international community to control the pandemic on the planet.
“We are brewing new variants every week and some of them may more lethal.. eventually make it to the entire world.”
Reports say 92 variants have now been detected in the country, including the P.1, or Brazil variant, which has become a big cause for concern as it is thought to be much more contagious.
On Tuesday, the Health Ministry reported another 4,195 COVID-19 deaths in the previous 24 hours, well above the country’s prior single-day record.
Brazil has set daily death records every week since late February, as a more contagious local variant and meager social distancing efforts fuel an uncontrolled outbreak.
With mass vaccinations curtailing the U.S. outbreak, it has quickly become the epicenter of the pandemic, contributing about one in four deaths per day globally, according to new Reuters analysis.
Hospitals are reported to be at breaking point – with witnesses likening them to scenes from a medieval plague outbreak as oxygen supplies run low.
In most states, patients with Covid-19 are occupying more than 90 per cent of intensive care unit beds.
Epidemiologist Ethel Maciel said the country was in a “dreadful situation”.
He told the AFP news agency: “At the rate we’re vaccinating… the only way to slow the extremely fast spread of the virus is an effective lockdown for at least 20 days.”
However, despite the increased threat of the virus, President Jair Bolsonaro has refused to impose restrictions.
He has pushed back against mask-wearing and lockdowns that public health experts consider the best way to combat transmission.
And last month he told crowds in Rio de Janeiro to “stop whining” about the virus.
Speaking to reporters, Mr Bolsonaro said: “Enough fussing and whining. How much longer will the crying go on?”
On Tuesday, he criticised quarantine measures and even suggested – without any evidence – that they were linked to obesity and depression.
But despite the ominous COVID data, government figures have insisted Brazil will soon be “back to normal”.
Yesterday, economy minister Paulo Guedes said: “We think that probably two, three months from now Brazil could be back to business.”
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Last week, we reported how an overflowing cemetery in Brazil was digging up 1,000 skeletons to make room for more Covid victims.
In ghoulish pics, gravediggers have been snapped deep within the graves of Sao Paulo’s Vila New Cachoeirinha cemetery.
Donned in protective white hazmat suits, they’ve been busy tearing open the tombs of people buried years ago, and bagging decomposed remains for removal to another location.