“We have all the conditions here for the pandemic to become much more serious,” Paulo Brandao, a virologist at the University of Sao Paulo, said, noting that the intensifying outbreak in Brazil has already pushed several of the country’s hospitals to the breaking point.
According to authorities, there are already signs that a growing number of patients are now dying inside their respective residences.
Brazil, the biggest country in the Latin American region, with a population of 211 million people, is currently reporting up to 3,642 coronavirus infections per day.
Scientists, however, say that the true numbers may be much higher, with some experts speculating that over one million Brazilians may already be infected. According to scientists, this projected number is largely due to the lack of testing in the country, as well as the number of people without severe symptoms who have opted to not seek hospital care.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro initially downplayed the danger of COVID-19, first equating it to “a little flu” before claiming that Brazilians have a “natural immunity” to the virus.
The riverside city of Manaus, home to over two million people, is now bearing the brunt of what is being looked at as the federal government’s inaction regarding the pandemic, with many already describing the city’s situation as akin to “living through a nightmare.”
"It is a scene out of a horror movie,” Manaus Mayor Virgilio Neto said in an interview with Agence France-Presse, noting that the city is no longer in a state of emergency, but rather of “absolute calamity.”
The worst-hit city in the state of Amazonas, Manaus’ death rate from the pandemic is now pegged at 100 a day, according to authorities, with data furnished by the city government noting that an average of 100 bodies are being buried every day -- triple the pre-virus average of burials. According to a spokesperson for the city hall, however, the majority of the deceased are noted to have died of “unknown” causes.
"People are dying at home, some perhaps because they got no medical care," Neto said, adding that he fears that these deaths could be coronavirus-related.
As of this writing, the bodies of the deceased that have yet to be buried are stored in refrigerated trucks parked outside of the city’s hospitals. According to Manuel Viana, one of the city’s funeral directors, some of the bodies in the trucks and hospitals have not been claimed by their families and relatives, largely due to the fear of possible infection.
"That is something I honestly have never seen in Manaus before,” Viana said in an interview with NPR, noting that he has never seen a situation such as this in his three decades in the funerary industry.
"I have been in this business for more than 30 years. We never thought we would encounter a situation like this" Viana explained.
Despite the apocalyptic situation in Manaus, medical experts say the coronavirus outbreak is still far from its peak in Brazil, with its number of cases and deaths -- already the highest in Latin America -- still expected to rise sharply.
According to authorities, the outbreak is expected to reach its peak in May.
This spells even more bad news for Manaus, especially since the city’s already-strained medical facilities are now starting to buckle under the weight of the number of infected individuals.
According to doctors -- some of whom have declined to be identified -- hospitals in Manaus are already at their breaking point, and that their supplies of personal protective gear and critical life-support equipment are now running low.
Complicating matters even more is that, aside from running out of supplies, the city’s hospitals are now running out of space for patients and the deceased alike, as shown by a video that recently circulated on social media.
The video, reportedly shot by a nurse inside Manaus’ João Lúcio Hospital, showed deceased patients in body bags lying on gurneys in the hallway, as well as wrapped in sheets or blankets on beds in the same room as patients undergoing treatment.
The Amazonas State Secretary of Health has since confirmed the video's validity in a statement, noting that the bodies seen in the video have been removed.
Many of the city’s residents are now afraid that Manaus is on its way to becoming Brazil’s answer to Guayaquil, the Ecuadorian city that went viral because of the number of dead bodies that have piled up on its streets. (Related: Apocalyptic scene now unfolding in Ecuador amid surge in coronavirus cases)
"We are working hard to bury people. We have had gravediggers fall ill with coronavirus. Some will not make it," Neto said, adding that he has already asked the Bolsonaro government for more resources in order for his city to tackle the crisis.
"This is a really, really tough fight," Neto added.
As of press time, the COVID-19 pandemic has claimed 211,609 lives, and infected 3,065,000 more, across 185 countries.