Brazilian health officials said on Wednesday they had detected a new variant of the coronavirus found in the southeastern state of Sao Paulo, as the country struggles to respond to an increase in the number of cases.
“It is a variant similar to that of South Africa, although there is no history of travel or contact with travelers from South Africa,” said Dimas Covas, president of Buntatan Public Biomedical Institute at a press conference.
Brazil is already grappling with another local variant of the virus, called P1, which authorities detected in January.
“It is possible that this is the evolution of our P1 towards the mutation in South Africa,” Covas said on Wednesday.
The South African variant is considered to be more contagious than the original virus. The Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines were found to be less effective against the South African variant.
How is Brazil dealing with the pandemic?
The discovery of the new Sao Paulo variant comes as Brazil wraps up its worst pandemic month yet. Brazil recorded 57,606 coronavirus-related deaths from March 1 to March 30, the highest number of deaths in a month since July 2020.
“We are at the worst time of the pandemic, and it looks like April will also be very bad,” Ethel Maciel, epidemiologist at the Federal University of Espirito Santo, told AFP news agency. Brazil’s favela communities and low-income indigenous population have been particularly affected by the virus.
What is Bolsonaro’s position?
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro pledged on Tuesday to spend 5.3 billion reais ($ 918 million, 783 million euros) to support the country’s ailing health system. The right-wing leader is often criticized for his government’s poor vaccine rollout and for denying the severity of the pandemic.
Earlier this month, Bolsonaro told Brazilians to “stop complaining” about the pandemic as he spoke out against social distancing measures at a public event. Former Brazilian President Luis Inacio Lula de Silva has criticized Bolsonaro’s “foolish” health policies, likely laying the groundwork for a showdown in the upcoming presidential elections in 2022.
wd / dj (Reuters, AFP)