University Of São Paulo: Experts warn of impending catastrophe with escalating pandemic

A catastrophe is approaching, but we can still avoid it. It is in this way that the Covid-19 BR Observatory, a group that brings together 85 researchers associated with 28 national and international institutions, including USP, Unesp, Unicamp, Fiocruz, UFABC, University of Berkeley and University of California, titled the technical note published in the March 3 on the growth in the number of covid-19 cases in Brazil. Read the full note:

• The epidemic in Brazil is on the rise, with numbers of new cases, hospitalizations and alarming deaths.

• Immediate restrictive measures to prevent such an alarming spread need to be established across the national territory. Such measures can only be abandoned when case and death rates reach much lower levels than the current ones.

• The lack of centralized coordination by the federal government has hampered all effective measures to combat the epidemic in the country, which so far has few testing and screening strategies for contactants, delays in vaccination and delay in resuming emergency assistance to people needy so that they can survive this period of economic and mobility restrictions.

• The population and their representatives in Congress and the Senate must demand that Governments take appropriate action immediately.

THEThe number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths due to Covid-19 in Brazil has grown at an alarming rate since mid-February, currently reaching marks never achieved before, bringing us to the verge of collapse in the hospital system.

The causes of the current situation are multiple. The explosion of cases that we see today, however, is not completely liable to be explained without considering the role of the appearance and spread of at least one new viral variant that is much more transmissible than those that were circulating before in the country. communicable disease accelerates the epidemic and creates the need for firmer and more restrictive public health measures. Having arrived at this situation was undoubtedly due to the lack of a sense of urgency on the part of government officials, a commitment to life as a priority and, above all, the lack of actions and coordination by the federal government aimed at mitigating the epidemic. Now is the time to change that and avoid an even bigger catastrophe.

The first measure to be taken is the adoption of a strict lockdown, with the closure of non-essential establishments and limits to the circulation of people, in order to avoid further contagion. The strict lockdown comprises opening only those really essential services, such as markets, pharmacies and healthcare facilities. We know the immediate cost of this, but there is no other way to avoid widespread hospital collapse, which generates despair and death, as well as devastating effects on the economy.

The duration of this lockdown should be better studied in each region, but it should last at least 14 days. The urgency of instituting it is immediate. We will only be able to abandon this restrictive measure when the rates of cases and deaths reach much lower levels than the current ones.

The impacts of such a lockdown for the population need to be mitigated by a new emergency aid without conditionalities, which urgently needs to be approved by the National Congress. The amount of the aid, in view of the country’s emergency situation, must be in line with the population’s needs to cope with their livelihood. It is also necessary that the aid is not extinguished before the acute public health problem is resolved.

A mobility restriction plan as we have pointed out here, along with the other non-pharmacological interventions, needs to outline a strategy for a progressive resumption of daily activities, as soon as the situation of the pandemic – now catastrophic – shows significant improvement.

It has been seen, in several countries in the world, the success of testing strategies, quarantine and contact screening, which would open an alternative path to lockdown. In Brazil, such strategies have not been implemented, even after more than a year of the pandemic, with the exception of a few municipalities. We are late and this has to change immediately, with more attention and investments in all spheres of government.

It is also essential to accelerate the rate of vaccination in the country, so that there is a drop in the incidence of serious cases and deaths, as in several countries that have better vaccination coverage. Brazil has the Unified Health System (SUS) and its National Immunization Program (PNI), which has a structure of health services and expertise in vaccination campaigns that can rapidly expand vaccine coverage, through availability of vaccines.

The Brazilian federal government abandoned efforts to coordinate the mitigation of the epidemic. At the moment, we are a constellation of 27 federative units without coherent policies and without centrality, many with assistance structures on the verge of collapse. It is necessary to seek some kind of consultation to give effectiveness to the measures that are, we repeat, imperative. The policies adopted so far, limited to managing hospital beds, have proved absolutely incapable of controlling the spread of the virus, leading us to the current crisis.

Without any strategy to contain the epidemic, Brazil became fertile ground for the emergence of new variants of Sars-Cov-2 and its spread, threatening not only the country, but the whole world. The intense circulation of the virus in Brazil allows the emergence of new mutations of concern. The global threat that Brazil has become puts the country at risk of international isolation not only through the closure of borders, but also through the possible imposition of sanctions. The consequences of this for the country, for the economy, for its future relations with the rest of the world may be severe.

• The immediate adoption of a strict lockdown, with the opening of only essential services, and severe restrictions on the movement of people across the country. To maintain essential services, it is necessary to offer safe conditions for the displacement of workers and for the performance of their activities.

• The immediate approval of an emergency aid in the amount of R $ 600.00 (reflecting the cost of the basic basket) until, at least, the indicators of the epidemic have been reduced to enable the economy to reopen.

• The massive expansion of the vaccination campaign, with the purchase of doses of vaccines, both importing from other manufacturers, and giving greater support to national production.

• Agile testing of all suspected cases and their contacts, and monitoring of contacts.

The time of the pandemic now has to be measured in days and hours, not weeks and months. Commitment to life demands this from Brazil, its leaders and each one of us. The sense of maximum urgency is imposed at this time when the lives of Brazilians are at risk.

Covid Observatory-19 BR
The Covid-19 BR Observatory is an independent initiative, the result of collaboration between researchers with the desire to contribute to the dissemination of quality information based on updated data and scientifically based analysis. The researchers created the site with open source code that allows them to monitor the current state of the covid-19 epidemic in Brazil, including statistical analyzes and forecasts.