Third Covid wave hits Brazil
Brazil became the second country after the United States to surpass 500,000 Covid-19 deaths as the South American giant grapples with a third wave of the pandemic.
"500,000 lives lost due to the pandemic that affects our Brazil and the world," Health Minister Marcelo Queiroga tweeted on Saturday.
The Health Ministry reported 500,800 deaths, including 2,301 in the last 24 hours, a toll that many experts say underestimate the real toll from the health crisis.
This week the average number of daily deaths surpassed 2,000 for the first time since May 10.
In large cities, life seems almost back to normal with restaurants, bars and shops open and many people in the streets not wearing face masks.
And yet the situation is critical in 19 of Brazil's 27 states with more than 80 percent occupancy of intensive care beds -- in nine of those states it's over 90 percent.
The "second wave," from January to April this year, was particularly deadly.
The number of deaths increased exponentially with the arrival of the Gamma virus variant that originated in Manaus, in the north of Brazil.
It gradually began to fall in May thanks in part to the closure of businesses when the pandemic was at its worst.
But many epidemiologists believe lockdown restrictions were lifted too soon at a time when daily deaths were still up around the 2,000 mark.
Brazil has recently received several batches of vaccines, including from US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, but the country has only managed to fully vaccinate 11 percent of the population, with 29 percent receiving one dose.
Far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, who previously hit out at vaccines, has promised to immunise the entire population by the end of the year -- something specialists consider unlikely.
He has been criticised for downplaying the illness from the outset, opposing lockdown measures and plugging unproven medical treatments.
On Saturday, thousands of Brazilians again took to the streets to protest against his handling of the pandemic.
The pandemic has killed at least 3,862,364 people since the virus first emerged in December 2019, according to an AFP compilation of official data yesterday.
The number of Covid-19 jabs administered in China has passed the one billion mark, health officials said yesterday, more than a third of the doses given worldwide.
The announcement by the National Health Commission comes after the number of shots administered globally surpassed 2.5 billion on Friday, according to an AFP count from official sources.
It is unclear what percentage of China's population has now been inoculated but its vaccination drive got off to a slow start after a successful fight against the virus left little sense of urgency to get jabbed.
Authorities have set an ambitious target of fully vaccinating 40 percent of the country's nearly 1.4 billion people by the end of this month.
In Europe, France ended 11:00 pm curfew yesterday, 10 days earlier than originally planned, days after the country eliminated a requirement to wear masks outdoors.
Meanwhile, Japan lifted its state of health emergency in Tokyo and eight other districts, one month before the Olympic Games -- although some restrictions remain in place and could prevent locals from attending Olympic events.