Brazil has recorded its first confirmed case of a highly contagious variant of the coronavirus discovered in South Africa, a fresh sign of danger to a country already devastated by the world’s highest daily death toll.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has doubled his opposition to locking measures to keep Covid-19, even though experts have warned that a long stay at home is “absolutely necessary” to slow the deadly wave of coronavirus.
The Brazilian Ministry of Health recorded 4,195 deaths on Tuesday, becoming the third country to cross that threshold as Bolsonar’s political opponents demanded tougher measures to slow the spread of the virus.
“We will not accept this policy to stay at home and close everything,” Bolsonaro said, resisting pressure in a speech in the city of Chapeco in the state of Santa Catarina. “There will be no national lock.”
The Brazilian Conservative president has also defended the use of so-called early treatment protocols, which include the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine. No scientific study has found that the drug is effective in preventing or treating COVID-19.
“There are not enough vaccines in the world today. We have to find alternatives, ”he said.
The number of virus-related deaths in Chapeco has finally declined after several very difficult weeks. Intensive care units have exceeded capacity, forcing authorities to transfer infected patients to hospitals in other states.
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Last month, the city implemented some restrictions on the economy for two weeks, but Bolsonaro attributed Chapeco’s recent success to the use of early treatment protocols, the Estadão newspaper reported.
Intensive care units in most Brazilian states have occupancy above 90%, although figures are stable since last week.
The Supreme Court is today ruling on the reopening of religious facilities across the country. Many local authorities have decided to ban large religious gatherings despite the federal government’s decision to label them as part of basic services.
South African variant
Brazil has recorded its first confirmed case of a highly contagious variant of the coronavirus discovered in South Africa, a fresh sign of danger to a country already ravaged by the largest number of daily deaths in the world and struggling to create a burial site.
Scientists warned on Wednesday that another new variant could appear in the Brazilian inland town of Belo Horizonte.
The Federal University of Minas Gerais said in a statement that the two samples taken in the city included an unprecedented set of 18 mutations, including some in the same genes modified by the South African variant and the already widespread Brazilian variant known as P.1.
The discovery of additional variants adds to concerns that the brutal wave attacking COVID-19 by Brazil may break dark records in the coming weeks.
Sao Paulo, the largest city in the country, said on Wednesday that the opening of about 600 new graves a day would begin on March 30, well above the record of 426 burials a day.
The city is also preparing plans for a “vertical cemetery”, a crypt with 26,000 drawer-like graves, which can be built in 90 days after it is approved.
The outbreak in the largest country in South America could threaten the United States and become the deadliest in the world, some medical experts predict.
A woman in the state of Sao Paulo who is now confirmed to be infected with a South African variant of the virus was first identified by the Butantan Biomedical Institute as a possible case of a new local variant.
Further analysis confirmed this as the first known local case of a variant that circulated widely in South Africa and elsewhere.
Scientists fear a showdown between the South African and Brazilian variants of P.1, which are more contagious and perhaps more deadly than the original version of the coronavirus, exacerbating the COVID-19 wave.
“It could be a huge duel,” said Maria Carolina Sabbaga, one of Bhutan’s coordinators for studying the new variants. “I think P.1 has already taken over. I’m not sure if South Africa will overtake P.1, let’s see.”
José Patané, a Bhutan researcher, said the variant most likely arrived in Brazil after traveling to Europe towards the end of 2020.
The first local diagnosis, a woman in her 30s in the city of Sorocaba, did not travel abroad or make contact with anyone who did, indicating a transmission from the local community, the researchers said.
Source: TRTWorld and agencies