Brazil’s rolling coronavirus disaster is a threat to the world

The country on Tuesday reported close to 3,000 deaths, a spike that accelerated this month. In the past week, Brazil posted a record of 12,888 new deaths and more than 467,944 new cases, according to Johns Hopkins University figures. Experts warn that Brazil’s hospital system is on the brink of collapse, with occupancy peaking near or even pushing past capacity in over half the states of the country. Rather than going up, the daily numbers of administered coronavirus tests — key to tracking and stopping a surge in cases — have declined dramatically since December.

Part of the problem is the emergence of a more virulent coronavirus variant in Brazil, one whose rapid spread since January has raised global alarm. “If Brazil is not serious, then it will continue to affect all of the neighborhood there — and beyond,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization, warned earlier this month. “This is not just about Brazil. It’s about the whole Latin America, and even beyond.”

Even in communities that are developing greater levels of immunity, an uncontrolled outbreak can still give rise to dangerous variants — and scientists fret that Brazil is incubating possibly deadlier new strains. A patchwork of inconsistent curfews and lockdowns in states and cities failed to stave off the crisis many Brazilian medical workers feared would come. Doctors and health officials are now battling against a rising tide.