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article imageBrazil detects first case of South African variant as deaths soar

By Karen Graham     Apr 7, 2021 in World
Rio De Janeiro - Brazil has recorded its first confirmed case of the highly contagious coronavirus variant discovered in South Africa, a fresh danger sign for a country already ravaged by the world’s highest daily death toll fueled by a widespread local variant.
With almost 337,000 deaths from the coronavirus, second only to the United States, Brazil recorded an additional 4,195 deaths from the virus in 24 hours on Tuesday.
Hospitals are full and healthcare is on the brink of collapse, and patients die as they wait for treatment in some cities. But President Jair Bolsonaro continues to oppose any lockdown measures to curb the outbreak, according to the BBC.
Bolsonaro uses the argument that shutting down the country would have a worse effect on the economy than the coronavirus, He has gone so far as to oppose the restrictions imposed by local authorities in the courts, to no avail.
Speaking to supporters outside the presidential residence on Tuesday, he criticized quarantine measures and suggested without evidence that they were linked to obesity and depression. He did not mention the 4,195 deaths recorded in the previous 24 hours.
According to health officials, nearly 66,570 people died from Covid-19 in March, more than double the previous monthly record. "Brazil now... is a threat to the entire effort of the international community to control the pandemic," Dr Miguel Nicolelis, who has been closely tracking cases in the country, told the BBC.
"If Brazil is not under control, then the planet is not going to be safe, because we are brewing new variants every week... and they are going to cross borders," he said.
A hospital worker plays guitar for a Covid patient in Brazil  where confusion often reigns as the fe...
A hospital worker plays guitar for a Covid patient in Brazil, where confusion often reigns as the federal, state and local governments squabble over policy measures to contain the pandemic
Tarso SARRAF, AFP
South African variant confirmed
Last week, scientists at the Butantan biomedical institute identified the South African variant in a woman in Sao Paulo state. The confirmation of the variant is most worrisome to scientists already dealing with the rampant spread of the Brazilian variant, known as P.1, reports Reuters.
Both the Brazilian and South African variants are more contagious and possibly more deadly than the original version of the coronavirus and have led to accelerated COVID-19 surges.
“It could be a huge duel,” said Maria Carolina Sabbaga, one of Butantan’s coordinators for studying new variants. “I think P.1 has already taken over. I’m not sure if the South African will overtake P.1, let’s see.”
In studies, the South African variant also appears to lessen protection from current vaccines. This is particularly worrisome because less than 8 percent of Brazilians have been given at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Bolsonaro has frequently played down the virus, raised doubts about vaccines, and defended unproven drugs as treatments.
Only recently has he shifted on his views of using vaccines and pledged to make 2021 the year of vaccinations. However, the government has struggled to get a vaccination program rolled out and has had added difficulties in negotiating supplies, including vaccines, according to WHTC.com.
Brazil is using vaccines from AstraZeneca Plc and China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd, which have proven effective against the Brazilian variant in preliminary studies. And while the Sinovac vaccine has proven to be at least 50 percent effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19 with the P.1 strain, the South African variant appears to lower the level of protection offered by the AstraZeneca shot and other available vaccines.
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