Brazil's COVID-19 task force estimates daily deaths could reach 3,000, sources say

Outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Duque de Caxias, Brazil
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Lisandra Paraguassu
·2 min read
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By Lisandra Paraguassu

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazil's daily COVID-19 death toll could reach 3,000 if serious action is not taken to halt the spread of the virus, according to a presentation made in a meeting of the government's crisis response team, two sources present told Reuters.

The inter-ministerial task force, which includes the Health Ministry and the office of the president's chief of staff, met on Thursday to discuss the current situation of the pandemic in Brazil where a brutal second wave is killing people faster than at any previous point.

The 14-day moving average is currently 1,250 deaths per day.

Despite the high death toll, the two sources said the Health Ministry does not see any chance of nationwide social distancing measures due to the resistance of President Jair Bolsonaro.

Bolsonaro has consistently played down the seriousness of the virus and on Thursday, after two straight days of record deaths, told Brazilians to stop "whining."

The Health Ministry, responding to a request for comment, said it does not produce estimates. It did not answer questions as to whether the estimates were presented at the meeting or whether the ministry agreed with the figures.

Sources said the estimates were calculated by the health secretaries of Brazil's states. The office of Brazil's president did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Brazil has the world's second-highest death toll, trailing only the United States. While the outbreak is ebbing in the United States and Europe, Brazil is facing its worst phase of the epidemic yet, pushing its hospital system to the brink of collapse.

Surging infections have triggered local restrictions in the capital, Brasilia, and largest city, Sao Paulo.

Particularly worrying to health authorities is the emergence of a new coronavirus variant from the Amazon region that appears more contagious and more able to reinfect those who previously had COVID-19.

The government's delay in acquiring and distributing vaccines also means that less than 3.5% of the population have had their first shot.

(Reporting by Lisandra Paraguassu in Brasilia; Writing by Stephen Eisenhammer; Editing by Matthew Lewis)