BRAZIL has been hit by more than 2,000 Covid deaths in a single day for the first time as infections skyrocket across the country.
The deadly mutant strain which is ravaging Brazil has been dubbed a "threat to humanity" as hospitals face collapse in much of the country.
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Brazil has the second highest Covid death toll in the world – behind the United States – with more than 268,000 fatalities.
The country recorded 2,286 deaths on Wednesday, bringing the total to a staggering 270,917.
Brazil also confirmed 80,000 new cases of the deadly virus.
The record number of fatalities comes as hospitals are already on the brink of collapse as the mutant P1 strain causes a second wave much deadlier than the first.
Although just 4.26 percent of the population have reportedly had a vaccine, lab tests have shown that Pfizer's vaccine is able to combat the Brazilian variant.
Last week, AstraZeneca also found its jab works against the variant.
But Margareth Dalcolmo, a doctor and researcher at Fiocruz said Brazil was currently "at the worst moment of the pandemic".
"2021 is still going to be a very hard year," she told AFP news agency.
Brazilian governors have desperately tried to cobble together a plan to help curb the deadliest Covid outbreak yet.
They have tried to introduce a curfew, ban crowded events, and limit the hours non-essential services can operate.
But Brazil's anti-mask president Jair Bolsonaro has refused to impose a national lockdown or acknowledge the severity of the crippling situation.
"I won't decree it," Bolsonaro said on Monday at an event.
"And you can be sure of one thing: My army will not go to the street to oblige the people to stay home."
Earlier this week he told people to "stop whining", adding: "How long are you going to keep crying about it?
"How much longer will you stay at home and close everything? No one can stand it anymore.
"We regret the deaths, again, but we need a solution."
But an alarming report said intensive care wards have been stretched to breaking point by a tide of seriously ill patients.
Brazil's Fiocruz Institute warned of the "overload and even collapse of health systems".
According to Fiocruz, 15 state capitals have ICUs at more than 90 percent capacity.
Piaui state's Governor Wellington Dias said growing numbers of sick patients will have to endure the deadly disease without a hospital bed or any hope of ICU treatment unless the pressure on hospitals is eased.
"We have reached the limit across Brazil," Dias told the Associated Press.
"The chance of dying without assistance is real."
In Brazil's wealthiest state, Sao Paulo, at least 30 patients died this month while waiting for ICU beds, according to a tally from the news site G1.
In southern Santa Catarina state, 419 people are waiting for transfer to ICU beds.
Brazil is a threat to humanity and an open-air laboratory where impunity in management seems to be the rule."
In neighboring Rio Grande do Sul, ICU capacity is at 106 percent.
Alexandre Zavascki, a doctor in Rio Grande do Suls capital Porto Alegre, described a constant arrival of hospital patients who struggle to breathe.
"I have a lot of colleagues who, at times, stop to cry," he said.
"This isn't medicine we're used to performing routinely. This is medicine adapted for a war scenario.
"We see a good part of the population refusing to see what's happening, resisting the facts.
"Those people could be next to step inside the hospital and will want beds. But there won't be one."
Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello has insisted that the country's health system will not collapse.
"We live in a serious moment in the country with many losses of life which were caused mainly by the new variants of the coronavirus," he said in a video, according to O Globo.
"Our health system is impacted, but it has not collapse nor will it collapse."
But experts say the situation is a "disaster" – not just for Brazil but for the whole world.
They warn the lack of effective controls in Brazil makes it a "human laboratory" for new mutations to emerge and spread.
Fiocruz epidemiologist Jesem Orellana said: "The best we can do is hope for the miracle of mass vaccination or a radical change in the management of the pandemic.
"Today, Brazil is a threat to humanity and an open-air laboratory where impunity in management seems to be the rule."
We see a good part of the population refusing to see what's happening, resisting the facts."
Officials say "variants of concern" including P1 have become dominant across most of Brazil.
"This information is an atomic bomb," Dr Roberto Kraenkel of the Covid-19 Brazil Observatory told the Washington Post.
"I’m surprised by the levels found. The media isn't getting what this means.
"All of the variants of concern are more transmissible… and this means an accelerated phase of the epidemic. A disaster."
In the absence of national action, city and state authorities have imposed their own measures but usually to little effect.
Sao Paulo, the commercial capital, imposed a "red phase" lockdown on Monday with all non-essential businesses closed.
The most recent surge in infections is driven by the P1 variant, which Brazil's health minister said is three times as transmissible as the original strain.
It first became dominant in the Amazonian city Manaus and forced the airlift of hundreds of patients to other states in January.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director of the World Health Organisation said Brazil's failure to contain the virus explosion is a concern not just for Latin American neighbors, but also a warning to the world.
"In the whole country, aggressive use of the public health measures, social measures, will be very, very crucial, he said.
"Without doing things to impact transmission or suppress the virus, I don't think we will be able in Brazil to have the declining trend."
P1 has been detected in at least 27 other countries including the UK and US, although only in small numbers so far.
A study showed it can reinfect 60 per cent of sufferers by dodging the body's immune response.
But a study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, showed the Pfizer vaccine's ability to tackle the variant was equivalent to the effect on the original Covid strain from last year.
It's hoped the findings from Pfizer/BioNTech and the University of Texas Medical Branch will quell concerns about the Brazilian variant.
Since first emerging in China at the end of 2019, the coronavirus has killed more than 2.6 million people and forced unprecedented curbs on normal life across the world.
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