The number of cases of coronavirus in Brazil is fifteen times higher than the official figures, according to researchers who estimate that more than 300 000 people have been infected and who fear a massacre in the next few weeks.
Brazil, the most affected country of Latin-american continent gained by the global pandemic late stage, compared to Asia and Europe, deplores the fact officially 1 736 deaths, according to the last balance-sheet, and waits for the pic of contamination at the end of April or beginning of may.
But according to estimates of the group Covid-19 Brasil, a collective of researchers from universities, the country of 210 million people there were 313 288 cases of Covid-19 Saturday, fifteen times more than the 20 727 confirmed cases announced by the ministry of Health.
The reason for this large deviation: a screening rate significantly lower than other countries that are highly affected by the virus.
In Brazil, the ratio is 296 people tested for 1 million, a figure that is paltry compared to Germany (15 730), or even France (5 114) and Iran (3 421).
“Brazil is in a very bad position and no one will be able to take the problem in hand with a mass screening,” said to the AFP Domingos Alves, a member of the group Covid-19 Brasil and head of the Laboratory for Health information (DSL) of the university of Sao Paulo (USP).
He also points the finger at the slow pace of the results of the tests, which pushes even many families to bury their dead without the confirmation of the cause of death.
“The official figures show the epidemic there are one or two weeks,” said Mr. Alves.
A shared understanding by the authorities that are forced to navigate to a view in the expectation of the delivery of delayed testing because of the explosion of global demand.
“We know that 85% of the asymptomatic cases will never be detected,” was recognized last week Wanderson de Oliveira, secretary to the Vigilance of health of the ministry of Health.
“Alert the public”
In public hospitals the point is simple: only in serious cases should be tested.
“We receive a large number of suspected cases in the emergency room, but it only tests those who will be hospitalized,” said the AFP Fred Nicacio, emergency medicine physician at Bauru, in the State of Sao Paulo (south-east).
“For the other suspected cases, we will issue just a prescription for a quarantine at home for two weeks. A lot of people who are infected are not recognized, simply because we could not test them, ” he continued.
For Domingos Alves, the group calculated that the Covid-19 Brasil serves to ” alert the public of the true dimension of the pandemic, because some tend to drop the guard “.
The situation is further complicated by the fact that the president of extreme right-wing Jair Bolsonaro has not ceased to criticize the containment measures taken by the governors in almost all the States in the country.
“If people continue to come out, we’ll see scenes like in Guayaquil, Ecuador, with people who die in them and bodies were left in the street. A Manaus (Amazonas, north), hospitals are already at the edge of saturation, ” he concludes.
Testing products locally
Dimas Covas, president of the instituto Butantan, who coordinates testing in the State of Sao Paulo, the main focus of infection in Brazil, acknowledges that the official figures are exceeded.
“It should not look in the rear view mirror. This is only the beginning, it is far from the peak and we will know in the next two weeks if it is climbing Everest or a simple hill “, he said last week during a press conference.
To obtain figures more in line with reality, it relies on the arrival of 1.3 million tests imported from South Korea, of which 725 000 have been delivered on Tuesday.
“We depend too much on imported products. It would be necessary to make more tests in Brazil to quickly respond to the demand “, explains to the AFP Rejane Grotto, head of a laboratory of the university of the State of Sao Paulo (Unesp).
A major challenge in view of the cuts in successive research budget in recent years.
Some universities have recourse to the financial support of technology companies and campaign contributions on the internet to develop projects to test products locally.