Brazil reports 217 COVID deaths in 24 hours, toll average lowest since April 2020 -ministry

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A health worker treats a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) patient at the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) in the Ronaldo Gazolla Hospital, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil June 18, 2021. REUTERS/Pilar Olivares

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BRASILIA, Nov 20 (Reuters) - Brazil has had 8,833 new cases of the novel coronavirus reported in the past 24 hours, and 217 deaths from COVID-19, the health ministry said on Saturday, as vaccination reduces contagion and fatalities to levels not seen since the first weeks of the pandemic last year.

The ministry said 70% of the eligible population has been fully vaccinated and 90% has received a first dose. On Saturday, the ministry launched a campaign to reach 21 million Brazilians who have not returned for a second shot.

The South American country has now registered 22,012,150 cases since the pandemic began, while the official death toll has risen to 612,587, according to official data, in the world's third-worst outbreak outside the United States and India and its second-deadliest after the United States.

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With vaccination advancing, the rolling 14-day average of COVID deaths has fallen to 228 a day, the lowest since April 26, 2020, which was one and a half months after the pandemic's first fatality in Brazil. That compares with a toll of almost 3,000 deaths a day in Brazil at the peak of the pandemic in April of this year.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil's second-largest city, which was severely hit by the epidemic, did not have a single new case of a person with COVID-19 hospitalized at municipal hospitals on Saturday, the city's health authority said. It added that 76.5% of the eligible population has been fully vaccinated.

"Science is winning in the city of Rio de Janeiro," it said on Twitter.

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Reporting by Anthony Boadle in Brasilia and Luana Maria Benedito in Sao Paulo Editing by Matthew Lewis

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