Almost six months after declaring a state of emergency due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Brazilian Health Ministry still has a stockpile of 9.8 million unused Covid-19 tests. That is almost twice as many tests delivered by the federal government to states and municipalities, according to internal documents reported by newspaper O Estado de S.Paulo.
This diagnostic equipment is of the PT-PCR variety, the “gold standard” for identifying Covid-19, according to the World Health Organization.
The reason the testing kits cannot be used is a lack of inputs. State authorities say that distributing the kits is useless if specific reagents are not also transferred. “At first, Brazil wasn’t testing because it didn’t have kits. Then, we began seeing a lack of tubes, extraction material, among other things,” said Gonzalo Vecina, a professor at the University of São Paulo. “Now the only thing lacking is competence.”
Data journalist Aline Gatto Boueri explained that Brazil’s official data shows an exceptionally high proportion of tests coming back positive: 38 percent. That is a testament to how deficient the country has been in monitoring the spread of the virus.
Argentina and Colombia — South America’s most populous nations after Brazil — have also posted elevated rates of positive tests, according to data aggregation platform Our World in Data. Those two countries, however, have implemented much stricter social isolation measures within their territories.
The lack of tests prevents Brazil from monitoring and containing the coronavirus spread. According to the Imperial College of London, the country’s contagion rate has jumped from 1.01 to 1.08 — that is, every 100 infected patients are expected to contaminate another 108.Support this coverage →