Covid patients are 'left dying on chairs' in Brazil as medic warns UK not to make same mistakes with deadly variant

A HEALTH worker who has been on the Covid frontline in Brazil has spoken of patients left dying in chairs as the country's healthcare system buckled under a devastating second wave.

It comes as the country as seen the emergence of the new, more contagious, mutant P1 strain in the second wave, with the medic urging the UK – and all nations – not to make the same mistakes as seen in Brazil.

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Fabio Biolchini, field coordinator for Doctors Without Borders in Manaus, the Brazilian city where the virus is believed to have originated, was on the scene during the height of the second wave.

Brazil's health system has been pushed to the brink of collapse by the pandemic with critical shortages of supplies.

Mass graves have been dug, hospitals have run out beds, oxygen supplies have gone dry, and refrigerator trucks have been wheeled in to store bodies.

And many health workers have placed blame for the chaos at the doors of their own government, with Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro even today telling people to stop whining about Covid.

He described the hellish situation on the wards as "chaotic", with doctors working "endless hours" around the clock in wards working more than double their capacity.

The health worker told The Sun Online: "One of the most difficult parts was to see these people dying without dignity, sometimes sitting on a plastic chair because there were no beds.

"Patients were dying with dozens of people in the same room, with family members there crying beside them and all of them unable to do anything.

"To die in such a way is very undignified. Without privacy, without being surrounded by family. It was very sad to see this every day and many times."

Brazil recorded its highest ever number of daily coronavirus deaths for two days in a row as Britain continues to search for an unknown person infected with the new variant, which was first detected in the Amazon.

The strain is believed to be more infectious and may even be able to infect people who have developed antibodies.

What happened in Manaus can happen in Brazil and in other parts of the world if people do adopt the adequate prevention measures

Brazil announced a new single-day record for Covid deaths for a second day in a row on Wednesday, with 1,910 fatalities.

Mr Biolchini told The Sun Online: "We see a second wave reaching several other states in Brazil. Even cities that have more resources are overwhelmed.

"So it is very scary what we are seeing."

Outside of the epicentre in Manaus, Sao Paulo state has announced "code-red" Covid restrictions as the country's death toll moves above 260,000, the second-highest in the world.

He added: "Some people got together for Christmas and New Years Eve for parties and after that the virus quickly spread.

"There was also a belief among some people that the majority of the population would already be immune to the virus, because the first wave here was quite wide, but that quickly proved to be totally wrong.

"And the local health system, which is historically fragile and was already shaken by the first wave, had to deal with this second one."

And he issued a warning to the UK and the rest of the world about the dangers of the deadly virus – blaming the scenes in Brazil on the "lack of coordination" between the different arms of the state.

Mr Biolchini told The Sun Online: "It is important to understand that what happened in Manaus can happen in Brazil and other parts of the world if people do not adopt the adequate prevention measures."


Doctors Without Borders told The Sun Online the situation is now improving in Manaus – but their team remains on site helping with provide support – including for mental health – after overcoming the horrors of the second wave last month.

Speaking of the peak, Mr Biolchini said: "There are some people who keep working with a high level of adrenaline and focused on their day-to-day activity.

"They don’t have time to stop and think about what’s happening.

"But, of course everything stays there, hidden under the rug: stress, psychological traumas, excessive workload.

TRAUMA & BURNOUT

"So the fatigue, the burnout, the trauma is going to appear sometime. It can't be hidden forever and we can see that now. That´s why it is so important to provide mental health support to health professionals, too."

Mr Biolchini said its hard to say how signficiant the P1 variant was in fueling the crisis – but scientists have said they believe it is more contagious.

And with the virus running rampant, he believes only vaccination and other traditional virus prevention methods – like social distancing and masks – can keep the bug under control.

"There is nothing to do but follow these rules. It is the only scientifically proven way today to reduce the speed of transmission of this disease," he said.

 

Britain has seen the arrival of the P1 variant as three cases were found in South Gloucestershire, with two linked to the same household.

But the whereabouts of another individual believed to be infected are unknown, as they did not complete their test registration card.

Surge testing has begun in the area with health authorities desperately searching for the patient, tracking down the case to 379 homes in the south-east of England.

Dr Paulo Marchiori Buss, a doctor and international relations coordinator at Brazil’s Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, the Brazil's most important and widely respected public health research institute, said the arrival of the Brazilian strain in the UK must be treated with great caution.

He told The Sun Online: "As it's a more contagious strain that spreads easier, great caution is necessary."

Dr Jamal Suleiman, an infectologist at São Paulo’s Emilio Ribas Institute, added: “There are some signs to suggest that the new strain is more serious."

And they both blasted their government's mistakes in its woeful handling of the pandemic – which has seen Brazil record more than 260,000 deaths.


Brazil's far right President Jair Bolsonaro has downplayed the virus at every opportunity, and even last week as deaths soar he was disparaging the use of masks.

Dr Buss and many other specialists largely blame the disaster on the gung-ho attitude of their government.

Speaking to crowds in Rio de Janeiro on Thursday, Bolsonaro said: "Enough fussing and whining. How much longer will the crying go on?

"How much longer will you stay at home and close everything. No one can stand it anymore."

Brazil has only vaccinated three per cent of its population – compared to around 33 per cent having their first dose in the UK – and President Bolsonaro has previously stated that he won’t take a vaccine.

Covid patients in a packed hospital were tied to their beds using bandages to stop them writhing around because of a lack of sedative supplies in the Amazonian city of Parintins.



“The president refused to recognize from the beginning the seriousness of the disease,” Dr Buss said.

“He doesn’t use a mask; he creates crowds everywhere he goes because he has fanatic followers…the president still says 'no, we have to open shops and commerce, we have to get on with our lives'.”

In the capital Brasília, a crowd of dozens of Bolsonaro supporters have been protesting local lockdown measures – despite there only being one available intensive care bed free in the city.

“He didn’t listen to his health ministers…he fired two and put a general in charge….this was fatal for the expansion of Covid-19 in Brazil,” Mr Buss said.

It comes as the British government is cautiously set to reopen the country – with Boris Johnson insisting the action is now "irreversible" despite warnings from scientists.

Dr Suleiman was confident Britain could handle the new variant, saying: "There is a level of care and containment there that we don’t have here."

Meanwhile, Brazilian leader Bolsonaro told crowd on Thursday: "Enough fussing and whining. How much longer will the crying go on?

"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."

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