Authorities in Sao Paulo have announced plans to open a “ vertical cemetery ” to deal with the continuing surge in coronavirus deaths.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro reiterated he had no intention of ordering a national lockdown, a day after the nation saw its highest number of coronavirus deaths in 24 hours.
The Brazilian Ministry of Health recorded 3,829 deaths on Wednesday, a little less than 4,195 deaths the day before, a dismal national record.
“We are not going to accept this policy of staying at home and shutting everything down,” Bolsonaro said during a speech in the town of Chapeco, resist increasing pressure on his government to report on its handling of the growing pandemic.
“There will be no national lockdown,” he said.
Bolsonaro, a COVID-19 skeptic who downplayed the threat of the virus, remained defiant in the face of public health experts who have increasingly voiced the need to implement strict coronavirus restrictions to deal with the crisis.
More than 336,000 people have died from COVID-19 in Brazil so far, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally, and projections show deaths will continue to rise if nothing is done to stem the spread of the virus .
On Wednesday, the director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said Brazil was among the countries with one of the highest numbers of new daily COVID-19 cases in the world. Brazil’s health ministry reported 92,625 new infections on Wednesday.
“Over the past week, the United States, Brazil and Argentina were among the 10 countries in the world with the highest number of new infections in the world,” Carissa Etienne said during a weekly press briefing.
Meanwhile, authorities reported Brazil’s first confirmed case of the South African variant of the coronavirus on Wednesday, fueling additional concerns about the country’s ability to cope with the spike in infections.
A variant first discovered in the Brazilian state of Amazonas, known as P1, and the South African variant are believed to be more easily transmitted than the original strain of the new coronavirus.
“It could be a huge duel,” Maria Carolina Sabbaga, research coordinator at the Brazilian Biomedical Institute Butantan, told Reuters news agency of the two variants.
“I think P.1 has already taken over. I don’t know if the South African will get past P.1, let’s see, ”said Sabbaga.
Brazil launched its vaccination campaign in January, but so far only 8% of the population has been vaccinated amid limited supplies of doses.
Brazil has so far procured AstraZeneca and Sinovac vaccines from China.
Sao Paulo, Brazil’s largest city, said on Wednesday it would start opening around 600 new graves a day amid the surge in coronavirus deaths, well above the record of 426 daily burials on March 30, Reuters reported.
The city is also preparing plans for a “vertical cemetery” – a crypt with 26,000 drawer-shaped tombs that can be built in 90 days once approved.