Health systems in most of Brazil’s largest cities are close to collapse due to Covid-19 cases, a report by the country’s Fiocruz institute warns.
The Rio de Janeiro-based institute said more than 80% of intensive care unit (ICU) beds are occupied in the capitals of 25 of Brazil’s 27 states.
On Tuesday the country recorded 1,972 Covid deaths, a new daily record.
Brazil has recorded more than 266,000 deaths and 11 million cases since the pandemic began.
It has the second highest number of deaths in the world after the US and the third highest number of confirmed cases.
According to Fiocruz, 15 state capitals have ICUs that are at more than 90% capacity including Rio de Janeiro, Brasilia and São Paulo.
Two cities – Porto Alegre and Campo Grande – have exceeded ICU capacity.
In its report it warned that figures pointed to the “overload and even collapse of health systems”.
“The fight against Covid-19 was lost in 2020 and there is not the slightest chance of reversing this tragic circumstance in the first half of 2021,” Fiocruz epidemiologist Jesem Orellana said, quoted by AFP news agency.
“The best we can do is hope for the miracle of mass vaccination or a radical change in the management of the pandemic.
“Today, Brazil is a threat to humanity and an open-air laboratory where impunity in management seems to be the rule.”
Last week experts told Valor Economic newspaper that deaths would soon surpass 2,000 a day. They warned that the only way to avoid this was if the federal government took over national coordination of the fight against the virus, recommending lockdowns, the use of masks and a mass vaccination drive.
More than eight million people have had their first vaccination dose so far, representing just over 4% of the population.
On Tuesday, the country also recorded more than 70,000 cases, a 38% increase on last week, according to local media. The recent rise has been attributed to the spread of a highly contagious variant of the virus thought to have originated in the Amazon city of Manaus.
Despite this, President Jair Bolsonaro has continued to downplay the threat posed by the virus.
Earlier this week he told people to “stop whining”. Speaking at an event, he said: “How long are you going to keep crying about it? How much longer will you stay at home and close everything? No-one can stand it anymore. We regret the deaths, again, but we need a solution.”
A number of quarantine measures have been taken by regional governors, which Mr Bolsonaro has opposed, arguing that the collateral damage to the economy will be worse than the effects of the virus itself.