in Brazil, "we are on the verge of barbarism"

Burial of alleged coronavirus victims on April 21 in Sao Paulo.
Burial of alleged coronavirus victims on April 21 in Sao Paulo. AVENER PRADO FOR THE WORLD

In Brazil, everywhere or almost, we dig. Holes, pits, by the thousands. Shovel and pick when you have a little time. Backhoe loader and construction machine, when you need it. Not to plant coffee or find oil, like before. In Brazil today, we dig holes to bury bodies.

Covid-19 has arrived " and it gets worse every day ", notes Paulo Henrique, a 26 year old undertaker in the Vila Formosa cemetery, in Sao Paulo. This Tuesday, April 21, a small traffic jam of hearses formed between the graves. " It’s the seventh I’m carrying today, double the usual size. It's exhausting ", he continues, patiently driving his funeral vehicle. The ceremony lasts no more than five minutes, enough time to say goodbye and a shovelful of earth. "Everyone is terrified", notes Paulo Henrique.

As of April 23, the epidemic has claimed 3,313 lives in Brazil (a record jump of 407 deaths from the previous day) for 49,492 confirmed cases. But who still believes in official figures? Overwhelmed, the authorities failed to test either the living or the dead, and some deaths due to Covid-19 were recorded twenty days late. Estimates released by the press suggest that the number of people actually infected is 12 to 15 times higher than the figure announced by the authorities. The death toll could have already exceeded 15,000 victims in the worst case scenario. And the peak is only scheduled for May …

Read also Coronavirus: more than 180,000 people killed by a disease that "will accompany us for a long time", warns the WHO

The entire Federation is already struck: the big cities in the south of the country, like Sao Paulo and Rio, where half of the deaths are concentrated, but also the Nordestin state of Pernambuco or that of Amazonas, far in the land, in the middle of the tropical forest. In these regions, public hospitals are already almost saturated, with occupancy rates for intensive care services often exceeding 70% or 80%. We were hoping for the new seasonal coronavirus? Sensitive to heat? It is clear that it adapts very well to tropical torpor.

Everywhere bed hunting

In the public cemetery of Vila Formosa, in São Paulo, Brazil, on April 21.
In the public cemetery of Vila Formosa, in São Paulo, Brazil, on April 21. AVENER PRADO FOR THE WORLD

It is all scary. It also makes you cry, with rage and despair. "We are on the verge of barbarism", Manaus mayor Arthur Virgílio Neto, in despair, collapsed in tears this week during an interview. In the largest city in the Amazon, the number of burials has tripled, mass graves are being dug for the construction machine. In overcrowded hospitals, the corpses are lined up in the corridors, too old patients have already been discharged to die at home.

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