The subdued New Years celebrations in Brazil met with silence within the COVID-19 group

© Reuters. New Year celebration at a field hospital in Santo Andre

By Leonardo Benassatto

SAO PAULO (Reuters) – Brazilians saw fireworks display amid unusual social distancing measures in 2021 while doctors caring for COVID-19 patients were silent for a minute in an intensive care unit at a hospital outside of Sao Paulo, to pass a fatal year .

The medical staff stood at the foot of the beds with people on ventilators and wished their patients a Happy New Year with face shields and masks.

The sound of fireworks on the streets outside broke the monotony of whirring fans and beeping monitors.

There was little to celebrate as 195,000 Brazilians lost their lives in the world’s second deadliest coronavirus outbreak after the US, but there is hope that vaccines will arrive in the New Year.

In the intensive care unit of the field hospital built in the industrial city of Santo André next to Brazil’s largest metropolis, patients with ventilators received the New Year in silence and hoped for a better year in 2021.

“I am sad to be separated from my family, but I expect to return home safe and sound,” said Vinicius Perreira, who was hospitalized five days ago with a collapse of half his lung.

“I hope the vaccine will finally arrive in 2021 to treat this disease and we are all having a better year,” he told Reuters.

Doctors and nurses said they were exhausted from the endless fight they have been fighting since March to save lives.

“That one minute of silence was so moving for me,” said Wakiria Miranda, a 19-year-old nurse who said she missed her family but was happy to give some love to isolated patients in need.

“May this pandemic pull back and people become more aware of the need for social distancing,” she said.

Despite the cancellation of most of the year-end events due to the pandemic, Brazilians celebrated with fireworks mostly from their homes, despite hundreds showing up on beaches that are usually crammed on New Year’s Eve.

Rio de Janeiro’s famous crescent-shaped Copacabana Beach, where 2 million revelers watched fireworks from offshore ships last year, was practically empty Thursday night, but hundreds of people were still wearing masks.

Authorities have closed Copacabana Beach and closed the city’s metro system ahead of schedule to avoid crowds as Rio de Janeiro is facing the worst virus recurrence in Brazil, although that hasn’t stopped its residents from bars, restaurants and beaches to pack.

In Sao Paulo, the moving average of daily deaths has quadrupled from 22 deaths per day to 88 on Friday since the first half of November, when a second wave of contagion started.

Brazil reported 56,773 more confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in the past 24 hours and 1,074 deaths from COVID-19 on Thursday, the Ministry of Health said.

It was the third straight day with over 1,000 deaths since the pandemic re-emerged in the country.

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