Brazil hits 400,000 Covid deaths amid slow vaccination

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[BBC] The number of deaths related to Covid-19 has passed 400,000 in Brazil, the second-highest in the world, as the country continues to struggle with its vaccination programme.

There were 3,001 deaths in 24 hours, after a peak of more than 4,000 was reached at the start of April.

The 14-day average of deaths and cases remains high but has seen a slight fall.

Congress has opened an inquiry into the government’s handling of the pandemic.

President Jair Bolsonaro, who has frequently spoken out against lockdowns, masks and defended unproved drugs as treatment, is facing widespread criticism and his support has plummeted.

The outbreak has been fuelled by more transmissible variants of the virus and a lack of co-ordinated national measures. The situation has improved in many areas, including where the health system was on the brink of collapse, after states and cities imposed restrictions, but they are already being eased.

The rate of occupancy of intensive care unit beds remains at or above 90% in more than a third of the states, according to the health institute Fiocruz, which said the scenario remained “critical”.

“[There’s] a tendency of a slight fall but not yet of containment of the epidemic,” the institute said in a report (in Portuguese), warning that the daily number of deaths is likely to remain high.

Brazil recorded 100,000 deaths in just 37 days, between March and April, which were the worst months in the country. Only the US has a higher death toll.

Since the start of the pandemic, Brazil has had more than 14.5 million cases.

Meanwhile, some cities have had to temporarily halt their vaccination programmes amid a shortage of doses. About 13% of the population of 212 million has received at least one dose, according to the Our World in Data tracker.