Number of COVID-19 deaths in Brazil exceeds 275,000

Brazil is facing the worst phase of the pandemic since it registered its first death exactly a year ago.

Video Transcript

MONICA YANAKIEW: A sight for sore eyes, a couple of empty beds waiting for COVID-19 patients and enough professionals to welcome them. But the Ernesto Che Guevara hospital in the seaside town of Marica is an exception. In most of Brazil, the health care system is on the brink of collapse as the coronavirus is spreading and claiming lives at an alarming rate.

ANDREIA PIMENTA: We're seeing an upsurge of infections and deaths everywhere, partly because people have stopped respecting social distancing. Last month's carnival was canceled, but that didn't keep Brazilians from partying without masks.

MONICA YANAKIEW: Doctors in this intensive care tell us they're admitting a greater number of younger patients than a year ago. Beds are scarce, but so are vaccines. In Rio de Janeiro, Thaina Vale had to wait in line to get her mother admitted.

THAINA VALE: There were five people ahead of her. Fortunately, she was able to wait, but I'm sure that many others who were in a more critical condition didn't make it.

MONICA YANAKIEW: Brazil is facing the worst phase of the pandemic since it registered the first COVID-19 death exactly a year ago. This week saw a rise in the daily rate of deaths, with 2,000 people losing their lives every 24 hours. Mass inoculations could have been a light at the end of the tunnel.

But President Jair Bolsonaro downplayed the pandemic and delayed the acquisition of vaccines. Less than 6% of the population has received the first shots so far. As a result, governors and mayors have decided to take matters into their own hands. The city of Marica, for example, just announced it will buy 400,000 doses of the Russian vaccine, enough to inoculate its entire population.

CELSO PANSERA: We can't even count on the numbers the federal government gives us. At the beginning of March, the health ministry said it would buy 48 million vaccines. Then it reduced the number to half. At this rate, Brazil will finish the first round of vaccinations in April or May next year. By then, new variants will be circulating which may be immune to the vaccines we have now.

MONICA YANAKIEW: Poorer states and cities with larger populations will have more difficulties in fighting the pandemic on their own. But doctors and scientists warn that if no action is taken, Brazil will represent a threat to itself and others.

TEDROS ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS: Brazil neighbors, many countries in Latin America almost all of them except a couple and some countries are doing better in the neighborhood. But if the situation in Brazil continues to be serious like this, then the neighboring countries will be affected. And it's not about the neighboring countries, but it could go even, even, even beyond.

MONICA YANAKIEW: The fear is that mutations will occur at a much faster rate, outpacing the vaccines and spreading to the rest of the world. Monica Yanakiew, Al Jazeera, Rio de Janeiro.