Brazil hospitals buckle in absence of national virus plan

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) – Brazil’s hospitals are faltering as a highly contagious coronavirus variant tears through the country, the president insists on unproven treatments and the only attempt to create a national plan to contain COVID-19 has just fallen short.

For the last week, Brazilian governors sought to do something President Jair Bolsonaro obstinately rejects: cobble together a proposal for states to help curb the nation’s deadliest COVID-19 outbreak yet. The effort was expected to include a curfew, prohibition of crowded events and limits on the hours non-essential services can operate.

The final product, presented on Wednesday, was a one-page document that included general support for restricting activity but without any specific measures. Six governors, evidently still wary of antagonising Bolsonaro, declined to sign on.

Piaui state’s GoverorWellington Dias told The Associated Press that, unless pressure on hospitals is eased, growing numbers of patients will have to endure the disease without a hospital bed or any hope of treatment in an intensive care unit.

“We have reached the limit across Brazil; rare are the exceptions,” Dias, who leads the governors’ forum, said. “The chance of dying without assistance is real.”

Those deaths have already started. In Brazil’s wealthiest state, Sao Paulo, at least 30 patients died this month while waiting for ICU beds, according to a tally published on Wednesday by the news site G1. In southern Santa Catarina state, 419 people are waiting for transfer to ICU beds. In neighbouring Rio Grande do Sul, ICU capacity is at 106 per cent.

Alexandre Zavascki, a doctor in Rio Grande do Sul’s capital Porto Alegre, described a constant arrival of hospital patients who struggle to breathe.

Health workers treat a COVID-19 patient in the ICU of a field hospital built inside a gym in Santo Andre, Brazil. PHOTO: AP