According to a new report published in the journal Nature Medicine, the coronavirus has reversed a steady rise in life expectancy in Brazil, with an estimated decline of 1.3 years in 2020 and an even more accelerated drop during the first months of 2021.
Significant, abrupt declines in life expectancy are uncommon, and Brazil’s represents a major setback given the country’s progress in improving health outcomes in recent decades, according to Marcia Castro, the lead author of the study and chair of Harvard’s Department of Global Health and Population.
“We expect declines of this magnitude when there is a major shock with high mortality, such as a war or a pandemic,” she said.
Brazil has reported more than 514,000 deaths from Covid-19, which is only surpassed by the United States, which has reported more than 604,000 deaths. Despite this, the United States, which has a much larger population, saw a slightly lower drop in life expectancy last year: 1.13 years.
In Brazil, where vaccinations have lagged, the pandemic has worsened steadily. According to official data, at least 18 million Brazilians have been infected, or one in every eleven people, and the country is averaging over 65,000 new reported cases and over 1,600 deaths per day. However, as in India, where the official death toll is the world’s third highest, many experts believe the figures understate the true scope of the country’s epidemic. According to Our World in Data, roughly one-third of Brazil’s population has received at least one vaccine shot.
The drop in life expectancy is a significant setback for Brazil, Latin America’s largest country, which has spent billions of dollars in recent decades to expand the reach and quality of its universal public health care system.
Between 1945 and 2020, life expectancy in Brazil increased by an average of five months per year, from 45.5 to 76.7 years. According to the study, the setbacks of the Covid-19 era have returned the country to 2014 levels.
In the first few months of this year, Brazil experienced a second wave of coronavirus cases that was far deadlier than the first, which receded at the end of 2020.
Based on the death toll recorded in the first four months of the year, Dr. Castro and colleagues estimated that the resulting decline in life expectancy for 2021 will be about 1.78 years.
The Amazon region’s states, including Amazonas, Rondônia, Roraima, and Mato Grosso, saw the steepest declines in life expectancy last year. Dr. Castro stated that states in the northeast, where governors imposed relatively strict quarantine measures, saw lower drop-off rates.
According to Dr. Castro, Brazil’s life expectancy rate is likely to fall even further as the virus continues to kill hundreds of people each day, many of whom are young. According to a New York Times tracker, the average daily death toll over the last week was 1,610.
“The decline in 2021 will be just horrible,” Dr. Castro predicted. “We’re losing even younger people now.”
Kim Jong-un spoke of a “great crisis” in North Korea’s pandemic response during a Politburo meeting on Tuesday.
Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service/Associated Press
North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, said lapses in his country’s anti-pandemic campaign have caused a “great crisis” with “grave consequences,” according to state media on Wednesday.
Mr. Kim did not say whether he was referring to an outbreak in North Korea, where officials said there had been no cases of the virus. However, state media reported that the situation was serious enough for Mr. Kim to call a meeting of his ruling Workers’ Party’s Political Bureau on Tuesday, during which he reshuffled the top party leadership.
Senior officials failed to implement antivirus measures, resulting in “a great crisis in ensuring the security of the state and the safety of the people,” according to Mr. Kim.
According to the official Korean Central News Agency, Mr. Kim also chastised party officials for their “ignorance, disability, and irresponsibility.”
According to one report, the officials would face “legal” repercussions.
According to the news agency, some members of the Politburo and its Presidium, as well as some Workers’ Party secretaries, have been replaced. Mr. Kim wields absolute power in North Korea, and he frequently reshuffles party officials and military leaders, holding them accountable for policy failures.
The North claims to be virus-free, but outside experts are sceptical, citing the country’s shaky public health system and lack of extensive testing.
Nonetheless, North Korea has imposed severe restrictions in order to limit transmission.
According to South Korean and US officials, it established a buffer zone along the border with China last year, issuing a shoot-to-kill order to prevent unauthorised crossings. Last year, South Korean lawmakers were briefed by their government’s National Intelligence Service that North Korea executed an official for violating a trade ban imposed to combat the virus.
When a man from South Korea defected to the North last July, North Korea declared a national emergency out of fear that he might have brought the virus with him.
Mr. Kim, on the other hand, has shown confidence that at least his inner circle is virus-free, presiding over meetings of party elites where no one wears masks.
During Tuesday’s meeting, Mr. Kim urged party officials to support his efforts to build a “self-sufficient” economy. As the pandemic has taken its toll on North Korea’s economy, Mr. Kim has admitted that his five-year growth strategy has failed and has directed his officials to embark on a “arduous march” through difficult economic times. He warned of a looming food shortage earlier this month.
According to Leif-Eric Easley, an associate professor of international studies at Ewha Womans University in Seoul, the party meeting on Tuesday “suggests that the situation in the country has worsened beyond the capacity of self-reliance.”
“Pyongyang may be laying the groundwork for a domestic political narrative that will allow for the acceptance of foreign vaccines and pandemic assistance,” he said. “Kim is likely to blame this incident on scapegoats, purging disloyal government officials and replacing them with others deemed more capable.”
In May, a vaccination centre in New Delhi. The Delta variant was discovered in India and has since spread to at least 85 countries. Photographer: Atul Loke for The New York Times
Last week, health officials announced that the Delta variant was responsible for approximately one out of every five Covid-19 cases in the United States, and that its prevalence had more than doubled in the previous two weeks.
Delta, which was discovered in India, is one of several “variants of concern” identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization. It has spread rapidly throughout India and the United Kingdom, posing a particular threat in areas where vaccination rates are still low.
Here are some common questions and answers.
Is the Delta variant associated with different symptoms?
It is not yet clear. “We are desperate for good data,” said Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy.
However, there is some evidence of a potential shift emerging in the United Kingdom, where Delta has become the dominant variant.
“What we’ve noticed is that we’re seeing different sets of symptoms in the last month than we were seeing in January,” said Tim Spector, a genetic epidemiologist at King’s College London who leads the Covid Symptom Study, which asks people with the disease to report their symptoms in an app.
Headaches, a sore throat, and a runny nose are now among the most frequently mentioned symptoms, according to Dr. Spector, with fever, cough, and loss of smell being less common.
However, these findings have not yet been published in a scientific journal, and some scientists remain sceptical that the symptom profile has changed. The severity of Covid, regardless of variant, can vary greatly from person to person.
If I’m vaccinated, do I need to worry?
Although there isn’t enough data on how all of the vaccines fare against Delta, research suggests that several widely used shots, including those made by Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca, retain the majority of their effectiveness against the Delta variant.
“If you are fully vaccinated, I would not be concerned,” said Dr. Ashish K. Jha, dean of Brown University’s School of Public Health.
Scientists warn that pockets of unvaccinated people may be vulnerable to outbreaks in the coming months.
“When you have such a low level of vaccination superimposed upon a variant that has a high degree of efficiency of spread, you’re going to see these individual types of blips among under-vaccinated regions, be that states, cities, or counties,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, said on CNN on Tuesday. “It’s almost as if there will be two Americas.”
Last year, a Maricopa County constable signed an eviction notice in Phoenix.
Getty Images/John Moore
The Supreme Court refused to lift an eviction moratorium imposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in response to the coronavirus pandemic on Tuesday.
The majority was comprised of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Brett M. Kavanaugh.
The court gave no reasons for its decision, as is customary when dealing with emergency applications. However, Justice Kavanaugh issued a brief concurring opinion in which he explained that he voted reluctantly because the moratorium was about to expire.
“By issuing a nationwide eviction moratorium, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention exceeded its existing statutory authority,” Justice Kavanaugh wrote. “Because the CDC intends to end the moratorium in just a few weeks, on July 31, and because those few weeks will allow for additional and more orderly distribution of the congressionally appropriated rental assistance funds, I vote to deny the application” filed by landlords, real estate companies, and trade associations.
He also stated that the agency might not be able to extend the moratorium on its own. “In my opinion,” wrote Justice Kavanaugh, “clear and specific congressional authorization (via new legislation) would be required for the C.D.C. to extend the moratorium beyond July 31.”
At the start of the pandemic, Congress declared an eviction moratorium, which expired last July. The C.D.C. then issued a series of moratoria of its own.
“By doing so,” the challengers told the justices, “the CDC shifted the pandemic’s financial burdens from the nation’s 30 to 40 million renters to its 10 to 11 million landlords — the majority of whom, like applicants, are individuals and small businesses — resulting in more than $13 billion in unpaid rent per month.” They estimated that the total cost to the nation’s landlords could approach $200 billion.
The moratorium postpones but does not eliminate the obligation to pay rent; the challengers wrote that this “massive wealth transfer” would “never be fully undone.” Many renters will be unable to pay their bills, they wrote. “In reality,” they wrote, “the eviction moratorium has become an economic policy tool rather than a disease-control tool.”
The government urged the Supreme Court to keep the moratorium in place, citing the need for continued vigilance against the spread of the coronavirus and noting that Congress had appropriated tens of billions of dollars to pay rent arrears.