Brazil has surpassed more than 6 million Covid-19 cases as the world’s third-worst coronavirus outbreak begins to surge again amid fears that a second wave is underway.
The Latin American nation joined the United States and India as the only countries to have passed the 6 million mark. With almost 170,000 confirmed fatalities, Brazil has the world’s second highest death toll.
After three months of falling numbers since peaking in late July, infections are increasing again, government data shows.
Many places went into lockdown after the virus first appeared in Brazil in February, but life in the largest cities has largely returned close to pre-pandemic normality in recent weeks, with bars, restaurants and stores full of people, often wearing no masks.
In the last few days, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro have registered a surge in hospital admissions of patients with COVID-19. In Rio this week, 90% of the intensive care units in public hospitals were occupied, according to the Rio state health secretary’s office.
São Paulo reported an 18% rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations this week and halted the dismantling of ICUs.
Brazil hit a peak daily case load of just over 69,000, with around 1,600 deaths, on July 29. By late October the virus appeared to be getting under control, with averages falling off to 20,000 cases and 425 deaths per day.
But this week through Thursday, the average for daily deaths rose to 480 and cases to 26,500.
Marcelo Gomes, a public health researcher at the Fiocruz biomedical center said the next few weeks will tell whether Brazil’s numbers will settle at a new plateau or whether the country is entering a second wave of contagion as Brazilians go back to their normal lives.