Brazil’s brutal surge in COVID-19 deaths will soon surpass the worst of a record January wave in the United States, scientists forecast, with fatalities climbing for the first time above 4,000 in a day on Tuesday as the outbreak overwhelms hospitals.
Brazil’s overall death toll trails only the U.S. outbreak, with nearly 337,000 killed, according to Health Ministry data, compared with more than 555,000 dead in the United States.
But with Brazil’s healthcare system at the breaking point, the country could exceed total U.S. deaths, despite having a population two-thirds that of the United States, two experts told Reuters.
“It’s a nuclear reactor that has set off a chain reaction and is out of control. It’s a biological Fukushima,” said Miguel Nicolelis, a Brazilian doctor and professor at Duke University, who is closely tracking the virus.
On Tuesday, the Health Ministry reported another 4,195 COVID-19 deaths in the past 24 hours, well above the country’s prior single-day record. Brazil has set daily death records every week since late February, as a more contagious local variant and meager social distancing efforts fuel an uncontrolled outbreak.
With mass vaccinations curtailing the U.S. outbreak, Brazil has become the epicenter of the pandemic, contributing about one in four deaths per day globally, according to a Reuters analysis.