After six weeks of spiralling cases that have pushed its health system to the point of collapse, Brazil registered a drop in deaths and new infections from Covid-19 over the Easter holiday.
The daily death toll averaged over seven days declined from a record 3,117 recorded last Thursday to 2,747 on Sunday following reports of a slight easing in demand on intensive care units in several states, though the situation in hospitals remains critical.
The number of new cases has also declined since the peak registered on March 27th. The virus’s reproduction rate has fallen, though it still remains above one, meaning the disease is spreading out of control. At the end of Brazil’s deadliest month so far of the pandemic, almost 20,000 people died last week from Covid-19.
Public health experts warn it is still too early to say if the country’s current wave is plateauing as the registration of deaths typically falls over holiday periods. A new study by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington warns Brazil is on course to suffer another 100,000 deaths in April alone and could eventually surpass the United States to become the country with the most deaths from the pandemic. Its overall death toll is currently 331,000. Since the start of the year more people have died of Covid-19 in Brazil than in the United Kingdom during all of the pandemic.
Despite such warnings state governors are under pressure to start easing restrictions. The Easter holiday witnessed more of the confusion that has marked the country’s piecemeal response to the health emergency after a supreme court justice issued a surprise injunction on Saturday exempting religious ceremonies from lockdown restrictions.
The unilateral move by justice Kássio Nunes Marques angered other members of the court and state governors who had ordered churches to close as part of their effort to contain the pandemic. Brazil’s powerful evangelical churches had lobbied president Jair Bolsonaro to be excluded from lockdown measures which have hit them hard financially.
Appointed to the court by Mr Bolsonaro last year, justice Marques has quickly carved out a reputation as a faithful executor of his wishes.
The far-right leader has waged a year-long campaign against attempts to contain the spread of the coronavirus claiming they do not work and are not worth the economic damage.
Instead the government is increasingly relying on its stuttering vaccination programmes to bring the crisis under control. Marcelo Queiroga, Mr Bolsonaro’s fourth health minister of the pandemic, says the country will vaccinate one million people per day during April.
Brazil has already vaccinated almost 20 million people or 9.25 per cent of the population.
Tensions over which categories of the workforce should get vaccinated first have led to public transport workers to threaten strike action in São Paulo after the state government deciding to prioritise teachers and police following aggressive campaigning by their trade unions.