BRASILIA, Dec 8 - Brazil reported 51,088 additional confirmed coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours and 842 fatalities from COVID-19, its Health Ministry said on Tuesday, marking the highest death toll since Nov. 14.
The South American country has now registered 6,674,999 cases since the pandemic began, while its official death toll has risen to 178,159, according to ministry data. Brazil has the world’s third highest case count, after the United States and India, and second highest death toll.
Easing quarantines in Brazilian cities have led to crowded bars and restaurants, giving some the impression that life has returned to normal. With the approaching holiday season, experts worry that COVID-19 will spread even faster.
“The greater social movement at the end of the year will end up spreading the virus even more and causing outbreaks and an increase in hospitalizations,” said Diogo Xavier, a researcher at the Fiocruz biomedical center in Rio de Janeiro.
“The concern is very great. The government needs to act. We still have the opportunity to take the appropriate measures and prevent this happening. Otherwise we will have a collapse of the health system,” he warned.
Several cities that were dismantling field hospitals used to receive COVID-19 patients in the first stage of the pandemic are now scrambling for more hospital capacity.
Vaccinations for the country will “quite likely” begin in January or February, Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello said in a Wednesday interview with CNN Brasil.
Pazuello said on Tuesday that Brazil had signed a letter of intent to receive 70 million COVID-19 vaccine doses from Pfizer starting in January.