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Health Official Says Brazil's Public Health Emergency Will be Lifted in a Few Days

People wait in line to be tested for COVID-19 outside the Manoel Jose Ferreira public health care unit in Rio de Janiero, Brazil, Jan. 5, 2022. By mid-April 2022, about 75 percent of Brazil's more than 212 million people were fully vaccinated. 

Brazil announced Sunday that, in just a few days, it will lift public health emergency measures in place for more than two years, citing a drop in the number of deaths and infections.

More than 660,000 people died of the virus in Brazil, one of the hardest-hit countries, second only to the United States.

But the number of infections and deaths has fallen dramatically as authorities ramped up immunization, with about 75 percent of its more than 212 million people now fully vaccinated.

Health Minister Marcelo Queiroga said Sunday the public health emergency declared on February 3, 2020 - when the virus started spreading globally - will soon end.

"We have the conditions to announce today the end of the health emergency," Queiroga said on television, adding that the announcement will be formalized by a decree in the next few days.

"This, however, does not mean the end of COVID-19. We will continue to live with the virus," the minister said.

The decision came after Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro, who famously dismissed the virus as "a little flu,” asked his minister a few weeks ago to decree an "end to the pandemic" and called for a return to normalcy.

Earlier this month, Brazil also loosened restrictions for international travelers, scrapping a 14-day quarantine for vaccinated foreign visitors.

The far-right COVID-skeptic president is up for re-election this year, and has come under fire in the past for his handling of the pandemic.