In the last couple of weeks, much of the world’s attention has focused on India, and although that country remains in the grip of a severe crisis, we’re encouraged by the demonstration of international support for India.
At the same time, we must remember that many other countries all over the world are still experiencing intense transmission.
As you know, Brazil is one of the countries that has been hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since the beginning of November, Brazil has experienced an acute crisis, with increasing cases, hospitalizations and deaths, including among younger people.
During April, intensive care units have been at almost full capacity across the country.
In total, Brazil has reported more than 14 million cases of COVID-19 and more than 400 thousand deaths.
Cases have now declined for four weeks in a row, and hospitalizations and deaths are also declining. This is good news, and we hope this trend continues. But the pandemic has taught us that no country can ever let down its guard.
Brazil has a long and proud history in public health, with three decades of investments in strengthening primary health care and progress towards universal health coverage.
But the pandemic has hit Brazil’s health system hard and threatens to unravel those gains.
PAHO and WHO are working closely with the government of Brazil to respond to urgent needs for medicines and other supplies, such as diagnostics, oxygen and masks, and we have helped to source tens of millions of dollars’ worth of medicines which the government can now procure.
Other partners including Spain, Portugal and private companies have also provided donations of critical supplies.
All countries will have lessons to learn from this pandemic. But there are areas where Brazil has done well, in early detection, telemonitoring for patients and the rollout of vaccines, with priority given to health workers, indigenous communities and older people.
Brazil is scaling up the domestic production of COVID-19 vaccines and has joined the World Trade Organization initiative to increase vaccine production through technology transfer.
WHO and PAHO stand in solidarity with Brazil. Last week I had the honour of meeting virtually with Brazil’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, His Excellency Carlos Alberto França, and I have also had the honour of speaking with Brazil’s new Minister of Health, His Excellency Marcelo Queiroga.
Although cases and deaths are declining, it’s more important than ever that together we support health workers and continue to take a comprehensive and coordinated approach to drive down transmission and prevent a resurgence and further loss of life.
That means public health measures including surveillance, testing, contact tracing, supportive quarantine and compassionate care.
And it means individual measures including physical distancing, masks, hand hygiene and ventilation.
If everyone does their part – governments at all levels, WHO, PAHO and our partners, the private sector, faith-based organizations, civil society, communities and every individual Brazilian – we will beat this virus.