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Brazil on Pace to Surpass US COVID Deaths by Year’s End


People carry food donated by the Rio de Paz NGO to be distributed to residents of the Mandela slum amid the COVID-19 pandemic in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, March 27, 2021.

Brazil is averaging nearly 2,400 deaths a day from COVID-19, about one-fourth of the world’s daily tally, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

The South American nation is on pace to reach 4,000 deaths a day, six experts told The Associated Press, a level that would rival the worst seen in the U.S., which has about one-third more people. The U.S. set a record of 4,477 deaths on January 12, 2021, according to Johns Hopkins data.

"Four thousand deaths a day seems to be right around the corner," Dr. José Antônio Curiati, a supervisor at Sao Paulo's Hospital das Clinicas, the biggest hospital complex in Latin America, told the AP.

President Jair Bolsonaro remains unconvinced that restrictions on activity are needed. At this point, they may be too late.

Miguel Nicolelis, professor of neurobiology at Duke University in North Carolina, who advised several Brazilian governors and mayors on pandemic control, said he expected the total death toll to reach 500,000 by July and exceed that of the U.S. by year's end, according to the AP.

"We have surpassed levels never imagined for a country with a public health care system, a history of efficient immunization campaigns and health workers who are second to none in the world," Nicolelis said. "The next stage is the health system collapse."

People attend a concert in Barcelona, Spain, March 27, 2021. Five thousand music lovers attended the rock concert after passing a same-day COVID-19 screening to test its effectiveness in preventing outbreaks of the virus at large cultural events.
People attend a concert in Barcelona, Spain, March 27, 2021. Five thousand music lovers attended the rock concert after passing a same-day COVID-19 screening to test its effectiveness in preventing outbreaks of the virus at large cultural events.

Spain tests mass-gathering limits

In Spain, an experiment is under way to find a pandemic-safe way to hold mass events indoors. The setting: an arena in Barcelona filled with 5,000 fans Saturday night for a live concert.

On Saturday morning, those looking to attend came to one of three field hospitals set up in closed nightclubs. They were given COVID-19 and antigen tests. If they tested negative, they received a pass to the show and were told they must wear a surgical mask. The arena was equipped with a ventilation system.

“Over the next 14 days we will look at how many of the audience test positive for COVID and will report back," Josep Maria Llibre, a doctor at the Germans Trias i Pujol hospital just north of Barcelona, told AFP, the French news agency.

The aim is "to discover a way in which we can coexist with COVID and hold concerts which are completely safe," Ventura Barba, executive director of Barcelona's Sonar festival, one of the organizers, told AFP.

FILE - Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization, speaks during a session of the Executive Board on the coronavirus disease outbreak in Geneva, Jan. 21, 2021.
FILE - Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization, speaks during a session of the Executive Board on the coronavirus disease outbreak in Geneva, Jan. 21, 2021.

WHO seeks COVAX donations

The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) Friday urged the global community to donate COVID-19 vaccines to lower-income countries, citing the urgent need for 10 million doses for a WHO-backed vaccine distribution program.

“COVAX is ready to deliver but we can’t deliver vaccines we don’t have,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a virtual news conference in Geneva.

COVAX, an abbreviation for the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access initiative, aims to provide equitable access to vaccines worldwide to low- and middle-income countries.

“Bilateral deals, export bans and vaccine nationalism have caused distortions in the market with gross inequities in supply and demand,” Tedros said. “Ten million doses are not much and it’s not nearly enough.”

Tedros’ appeal came after India, a key supplier to the COVAX vaccine-sharing program, said it was prioritizing local needs.

The WHO chief said India’s move was “understandable” given the rising number of infections in India. He said talks were in progress with India to find a balance between local and international needs.

India said Friday that it set a record with more than 59,000 new COVID cases in the previous 24 hours.

FILE - A nurse, left, prepares a shot of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, manufactured by the Serum Institute of India and provided through the global COVAX initiative, from a cold storage box in Machakos, Kenya, March 24, 2021.
FILE - A nurse, left, prepares a shot of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, manufactured by the Serum Institute of India and provided through the global COVAX initiative, from a cold storage box in Machakos, Kenya, March 24, 2021.

UN demands fair vaccine access

At the United Nations in New York, 181 nations signed a political declaration calling for COVID-19 vaccinations to be treated as a global public good, ensuring affordable, equitable and fair access to vaccines for all.

“We can see the end of the crisis, but to reach it, we need to work together with a deeper sense of collaboration,” the declaration states.

Among the appeals were calls on nations to fully fund the COVAX initiative, scale up vaccine production through the distribution of technology and licenses, and launch public information campaigns on the importance and safety of COVID-19 vaccines.

COVAX has so far distributed more than 31 million doses of vaccines to 57 countries.

“There is a race everywhere between the vaccines and the pandemic,” said Lebanon’s Ambassador Amal Mudallali, on behalf of the countries that drafted the document. “This race will be won before the start by the ‘haves,’ if there is no equitable, affordable sharing of vaccines.”

As of Saturday evening, Johns Hopkins reported that the global total of COVID-19 infections had reached about 126.6 million. The research center updates its data constantly and provides expert input [[https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html]].

The United States had more cases than any other country, with 30.2 million, followed by Brazil with 12.5 million and India with 11.9 million, according to the center.

VOA's Margaret Besheer contributed to this report.

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