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As vaccinations send Covid-19 into retreat, Brazil finds new hope

BUT.Ideas Silva comes out of hospital, takes off his mask and examines the yard. The scene is peaceful: no family screams for help, no ambulances line up, no patient is turned away or left to die. There is no chaos that the intensive care nurse associates with this city’s protracted struggle with the coronavirus.

Sellers are back, selling water. People are laughing at their phones again. Silva is relieved. “Thank God,” he says. “There was complete despair here. For comparison, this is paradise. “

It looks like better days have finally arrived in Manaus, an isolated Amazonian city of 2 million that has introduced the world to the devastating potential of coronavirus in the developing world. After two devastating waves – one last year and the other this year – there are almost no hospitals in hospitals. COVID-19 the patients. This month, for the first time since the pandemic reached the region, there was a day in the state of Amazonas when it did not register a single death from the coronavirus.

“We have weeks where almost no one comes in with Covid symptoms,” says Wildea Galvao, the lead physician of the coronavirus department at the hospital on August 28. “The vaccine was fundamental.”

During a pandemic Brazil looked in Manaus for clues about what would happen next. The city to abandon containment measures that have been successful elsewhere was the first in the country to experience widespread medical denial. After a period of convalescence, he spawned a variant known as Gamma, or P.1, which devastated the country and shattered hopes that Manaus would attain herd immunity. The researchers characterized the city as a “sentinel”, allowing the scientific community to study urban settings in which the virus could spread largely without mitigation.

Many in Manaus are now behaving like survivors of a shipwreck – delirious that they survived but were forever changed by experience.

Now Brazil, which has buried more coronavirus victims than any country other than the United States, is looking north again, to Manaus. While the national vaccination campaign in most of the country was sluggish, Manaus pushed ahead. City, one of the first places in Brazil to get sick with coronavirus vaccinations, has immunized 75 percent of the adult population with at least one dose, well above the national target of 55 percent. Even healthy adults between the ages of twenty and five are now vaccinated.

As hospitalizations and deaths plummet here, Brazilians in other parts of the country are beginning to express their hopes for an ambulance. The vaccination campaign has accelerated significantly in recent weeks. A record 94 percent of Brazilians said they want the shot. On Monday, July 12, the country reported the lowest number of cases since January. It is planned to hold a noisy New Year’s celebration in the country in December and a carnival next year.

For the first time in over a year, scientists who have issued dire warning after warning are beginning to sound reassuring.

“Unpredictability is a hallmark of Covid-19,” says Renato Kfuri, head of immunization at the Brazilian Society of Pediatricians. “But at the moment, the pandemic nationwide has retreated primarily through Manaus. It could be a kind of mirror of what you can expect to see in other parts of the country. “

Many in Manaus now behave like survivors of a shipwreck: delirious to have survived, but have been forever changed by experience. For more than a year, the city suffered from a kind of claustrophobia – an isolated geographical location, plagued by disease, 2 million people were abandoned in the middle of the Amazon. There was no escape from the disease, and those who had it had few options.

Mourners lit candles at a cemetery in Manaus to commemorate the 9,200 victims of COVID-19.

(Rafael Alves for the Washington Post)

More than 9,200 people died in the city. Many survivors have lost loved ones. The collective pain lies just below the surface. Talk to just about anyone for a few minutes and it will come to the surface.

“It’s a tattoo on me,” says 44-year-old Marcia Freitas. – Impossible to forget”.

Her grandmother, father-in-law and aunt fell ill last year as the hospital system malfunctioned. “So many people died at the same time,” she says. Hospital beds were running low. She put her grandmother in the car and went in search of one. But by the time they arrived at the hospital, her grandmother had already died. Her father-in-law died on the same day. So the aunt gave up.

Civil servant Freitas sees other residents of the city trying to leave. But on some days she still feels stuck thinking about this day. Having lost so much to the coronavirus, she doesn’t know what to do with all this pain.

She sees the same struggle imprinted on the faces of those around her.

The family of her friend Carla Lima survived the first wave of coronavirus in the city, but then the P.1 variant appeared. A few days later, her mother, father and brother fell ill. Patients overwhelmed the city’s medical system and depleted oxygen supplies.

It was impossible to take those close to Lima and give them oxygen. She searched the city for oxygen, but found nothing. It took three days of waiting in lines to find at least one pipe.

But it was useless. Soon, the virus took away all three of her loved ones.

All that is left of the family is Lima and her sister.

Geographically isolated, Manaus was shocked when the pandemic broke.

(Rafael Alves for the Washington Post)

“I wake up screaming all the time,” she says. “I can not fall asleep. I am taking antidepressants. It is impossible to forget something like that. It was chaos. “

In a cemetery on the outskirts of Manaus, a gravedigger walks among the graves. Ulysses Xavier still wears the full protective suit he has worn since the start of the pandemic. Nowadays, he almost does not bury those who have contracted the coronavirus, but are not yet ready to weaken their regime.

Xavier places a gloved hand on one of the thousands of crosses that adorn the graves of coronavirus victims. They go on and on – it’s like looking at the sea.

The site he stands on was once a soccer field where graveyard workers played. But when the second wave came and all the available large tracts of land in the cemetery were destroyed, they sacrificed their resin to create a new cemetery.

Xavier stares out into the clearing, thinking of the days he hopes will never return.

“It was like a war zone – a war against a virus and we were losing,” he says. “But now, with the vaccine, we are finally back.”

© Washington Post

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