Brazil COVID-19 deaths top 66,000 in March alone

A number of states in Brazil are in critical condition and hospitals are overwhelmed by COVID-19, World Health Organization epidemiologist Maria van Kerkhove said Thursday.

WHO says Brazil in 'critical condition' as hospitals struggle to meet demand in virus epicentre

Marcelo Christian, 38, a gravedigger wearing a protective suit looks on during exhumations to open space on cement graves on Friday as new burials are suspended, except private deposits and children, at Vila Nova Cachoeirinha cemetery amid the outbreak of the coronavirus disease in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Amanda Perobelli/Reuters)

A number of states in Brazil are in critical condition and hospitals are overwhelmed by the COVID-19 pandemic, World Health Organization epidemiologist Maria van Kerkhove told a briefing on Thursday.

In March alone, 66,573 people in Brazil died of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

"Indeed there is a very serious situation going on in Brazil right now, where we have a number of states in critical condition," van Kerkhove said, adding that many hospital intensive care units are more than 90 per cent full.

WATCH | Brazil's cemeteries extend services to all hours:

Brazil COVID-19 deaths top 66,000 in March alone

6 months ago
Brazil's cemeteries struggle to keep up with record COVID-19 casualties, extend services to all hours and attempt to accommodate new caskets. 1:23

Brazil, where a more transmissible virus variant is circulating, has become an epicentre of the pandemic. 

In March, Brazil's population saw a record high of 2,161,746 new COVID-19 cases, according to figures from the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Centre.

Brazil variant in Michigan

In the U.S., Michigan, which has the country's highest coronavirus infection rate in the past week, reported the state's first confirmed case of a variant first identified in Brazil.

State Health and Human Services Director Elizabeth Hertel expressed concern about an additional variant. Michigan previously reported finding variants identified in Britain and South Africa.

It is considered more contagious than other strains, according to the department.

Hertel says it's important to "do what works to slow the spread of the virus" by wearing masks, staying physically distanced, avoiding crowds, washing hands and getting a vaccine. 

Cases involving the variant have already been confirmed in several provinces, including British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario.

Borders to Brazil cinched

Bolivia said its border with virus-ravaged Brazil — its chief trading partner — will be tightly restricted for a week as of Friday in an effort to staunch the spread of a new virus variant first detected there.

Crossings along the 3,400-kilometre border will be allowed for only three hours a day.

WATCH | Brazil's president tells residents to 'stop whining' as COVID-19 death toll rises:

Bolsonaro tells Brazilians to 'stop whining' as COVID-19 death toll rises

6 months ago
Brazil has entered the deadliest phase of the pandemic so far, with the daily death toll exceeding 2,000 on some days this past week. But the government is still downplaying the disaster, and President Jair Bolsonaro has told people to 'stop whining.' 2:04

It also said plans for a massive vaccine campaign have been delayed by a month because doses have been slow to arrive.

Argentina also tightened border restrictions last week., banning flights from Brazil, Chile and Mexico.

There have been 4,234,605 people fully vaccinated, or 2.02 per cent of Brazil's population, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Centre.

More than 211 million people live in Brazil, making it the sixth most populous country in the world.

With files from The Associated Press and CBC News

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