Brazil surpassed 600,000 deaths from Covid-19 on Friday, the health ministry said. The country of 213 million people has also recorded more than 21.5 million cases of the deadly virus.
It is the second most affected country in the world by Covid deaths after the United States, although many experts consider the official figures to be underestimated.
The United States recently passed 700,000 deaths, although its population is 35% larger.
Brazil recorded 615 new deaths on Friday, as well as 18,000 cases in the past 24 hours.
“The situation has improved but we cannot let our guard down,” Margareth Dalcolmo, pulmonologist and researcher at the prestigious Fiocruz research institute, told AFP.
She said the pandemic could only be considered under control once “we have 80 percent of the population vaccinated.”
So far, 71.4 percent of Brazilians have received at least one dose of vaccination, but only 45.9 percent are fully immunized.
Brazil’s vaccination program began in late January, several weeks after Argentina and the United States, which specialists blamed on a lack of government planning.
Things have improved dramatically from three months ago, however, when the vaccination campaign was progressing and 2,000 Brazilians per day were dying from Covid.
This death rate fell below 1,000 in late July and continued to decline until it stabilized around 500 in September.
Brazil is far from seeing “the light at the end of the tunnel, the situation remains worrying,” said Domingos Alves, a researcher at the Faculty of Medicine of the University of São Paulo.
Despite these concerns, major cities like Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo are continuing their efforts to return to normal life.
Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes even said February’s carnival, one of the most popular in the world, would take place “without restrictions”.