BRASILIA, Brazil, Thurs. Mar. 4, 2021 (Reuters): Latin American giant Brazil on Wednesday reported nearly 2,000 new deaths from COVID-19 as the country’s biggest state, Sao Paulo shut down.
Brazil hit a daily record number of COVID-19 deaths for the second straight day on Wednesday, reporting 1,910 fatalities along with 71,704 additional cases of the novel coronavirus in the past 24 hours, the Health Ministry said on its website.
The South American country has now registered 10.7 million cases since the pandemic began, while the official death toll has risen to nearly 260,000, according to ministry data, in the world’s third-biggest outbreak, after the United States and India, and the deadliest outside the U.S.
Sao Paulo state shuttered businesses as the government tried to close vaccine deals with Pfizer and Janssen.
A sputtering vaccination campaign has also put pressure on Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello, who said on Wednesday he was close to an agreement with Pfizer Inc, effectively overcoming a dispute over liability clauses.
The government said it intended to buy 100 million doses from Pfizer and 38 million from Janssen, the pharmaceutical subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson.
The partial lockdown in Sao Paulo, Brazil’s most-populous state, underscored mounting concerns about a surging new wave of infections. The country is facing its deadliest stretch since the pandemic began due to a homegrown variant dubbed P1, scarce restrictions to slow the virus and the patchy vaccine rollout. The Sao Paulo announcement, made by state Governor João Doria, irked far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, who opposes lockdowns and has long sought to diminish the gravity of the virus. But more states and cities are likely to follow Sao Paulo’s lead as health systems are pushed to the breaking point.
Bolsonaro attacked the lockdowns again on Wednesday.
“You cannot panic, like resorting once again to this stay-at-home policy. People are going to die of hunger and depression,” he told a group of supporters.
(Reporting by Anthony Boadle Editing by Brad Haynes)