Brazil faces a big rise in COVID-19 cases as the Omicron strain spreads across the country, pushing health services and the already sputtering economy to the edge.

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There are clear signs of the increase of infections hitting the nation hard, driven by deficient testing and data blockade caused by hackers that have made it harder to track the spread of the highly contagious variant in Brazil.

The cases almost doubled in numbers since last week, with an average of 27,267 infected last Wednesday, rising to 52,500. According to experts, the real number is much higher, given the low testing and patchy systems for disclosure of the data. So far there is an average of 120 deaths per day, remaining much lower than last year.

According to Reuters calculations, Brazil has the third-highest death toll from COVID-19 with more than 620,000 registered death. There have been many critics of Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro, for the way he is handling the pandemic situation, the rallies against lockdowns, and his refusal to wear a mask in public and not get vaccinated.

Epidemiologists consider that a strong vaccination campaign would see 67 percent of the population fully inoculated, which would reduce the impact of the current pandemic waves.

As the situation continues to demand health services, hospitals are suffering staff reductions as doctors and nurses self-isolate after being confirmed positive for the virus. Eduardo Fernandes, head of the Brazilian Medical Association (AMB) says, “if you don’t know a friend who’s got the virus at the moment, it means you don’t have any friends.”

“The situation is worrying and some services may collapse,” he added, saying that since the Omicron wave hit the staff shortage at hospitals tripled.

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