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By Jake Spring

BRASILIA, Brazil, Tues. April 14, 2020: (Reuters) – Brazil likely has 12 times more cases of new coronavirus than are being officially reported by the government, with too little testing and long waits to confirm the results, according to a study released on Monday.

Researchers at a consortium of Brazilian universities and institutes examined the ratio of cases resulting in deaths through April 10, considering cases ending in recovery or death while excluding patients still fighting the virus. They then compared that ratio with the expected death rates based on age of patients from the World Health Organizations.

The much higher-than-expected death rate in Brazil based on the official figures indicates that there are many more cases of the virus than are being counted, with the study estimating only 8% of cases are being reported.

The government has focused on testing serious cases rather than all suspected cases, according to the consortium, known as the Center for Health Operations and Intelligence. The center, along with medical professionals, has also complained of long wait times to get test results.

Officially, Brazil’s death toll rose to 1,223 on Sunday, while the number of confirmed cases hit 22,169, according to health ministry data.

“The high degree of under notification could give a false impression about control of the disease, and consequently, could lead to a decline in containment measures,” the center said.

The outbreak has stoked tension in the Brazilian government, with right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro downplaying risks of the virus and urging the country to return to normal, while his health minister, state governors and local officials urge stricter measures to control the virus.

The center has thus far been accurate in predicting the evolution of the virus in Brazil, with the number of confirmed coronavirus cases through March 30 falling within the range that the researchers previously predicted.

The researchers are now predicting that by April 20 the number of cases will grow to 25,164 in its most optimistic scenario and 60,413 cases in its most pessimistic.

(Reporting by Jake Spring; Editing by Dan Grebler)

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