Omicron moving into Brazil’s countryside

omicron covid countryside
Photo: Marcelo Camargo/ABr

Health officials in São Paulo have celebrated a downward trend in hospitalizations caused by Covid infections. Per the state’s Health Secretary Jean Gorinchteyn, ICU occupancy rates have fallen in each of the last five days, while admissions to emergency rooms have decreased for seven days.

The numbers suggest that Omicron may be retreating in big urban areas after an explosion of cases and deaths. And while these are encouraging developments, it doesn’t mean Brazil is out of the woods yet — as the variant is now moving towards the countryside.

“[ICU occupancy] rates outside of metropolitan areas have shown a sizable increase,” warned the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, a federally-run biological institute. In São Paulo, Minas Gerais, and Rio de Janeiro — the three most populous states — ICU occupancy is no longer at critical levels. But that is the case in part of the Northeast, North, and in the entire Center-West region.

This is a cause for concern given the uneven Covid vaccination rates between Brazilian states. While 80 percent of the São Paulo population has been fully immunized against the coronavirus, that rate drops to just 41 percent in the northern state of Amapá, for example.