BRASILIA • The spread of the coronavirus in Brazil could soon slow, the Health Ministry has said, amid reports that the country’s Covid-19 transmission rate has fallen below a key level and early signs of a gradual decline in the weekly totals of infections and fatalities.
The cautious optimism comes despite figures again showing a steady rise in the number of cases and deaths in the last 24 hours, cementing Brazil’s status as the world’s second-biggest Covid-19 hot spot after the United States.
According to ministry data, Brazil has seen a drop in the weekly number of new cases to 304,684 last week from a peak of 319,653 for the week ending July 25. The weekly death toll has fallen to 6,755 from a peak of 7,677 in the last week of July.
Meanwhile, a study by Imperial College London showed that for the first time since April, Brazil this week registered a transmission rate below 1. An “R rate” below 1 indicates that each infected person will infect fewer than one person, thus curbing the epidemic.
“We have to see how the disease behaves in the next two weeks to see if there is a significant drop,” Health Surveillance Secretary Arnaldo Medeiros said on Wednesday, although stressing that the apparent slowdown was no reason to ease up on the wearing of masks and social distancing.
Later on Wednesday, official ministry figures showed 49,298 new coronavirus cases and 1,212 deaths from the disease caused by the virus in the past 24 hours. Brazil has now registered more than 3.4 million infections and over 111,000 fatalities.
Also on Wednesday, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro enacted a law to exempt schools from having to meet a minimum number of school days, making this academic year more flexible.
The new law exempts primary and secondary schools from having to fulfil the mandatory 200-day school calendar and minimum 800 hours of study.
But the schools will have to comply with the workload required by law, which is already being partially carried out via online classes.
Nevertheless, workloads may be completed next year at the discretion of each school through online educational activities.
Schools and universities in Brazil have suspended in-person classes since March, replacing them with online classes, due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Brazil’s north-western state of Amazonas partially resumed in-person classes this week, becoming the only state in the country to do so thus far.
Institutions of higher learning are also exempt from the mandatory 200 days of classes, but must fulfil the study programme for each course.