Brazil has detected a new variant of COVID-19 in the state of Sao Paulo that is similar to that seen for the first time in South Africa, the head of the state’s Butantan Biomedical Institute said on Wednesday. Speaking at a press conference the day after the record-breaking 3,780 deaths in Brazil in one day, President of Butantan, Dimas Covas, said the patient with the variant had no travel history to South Africa.
The South African variant has alarmed public health experts as questions arise about the effectiveness of current vaccines against it. Brazil is also grappling with its own local variant, called P1, which appears to be fueling a record series of infections. “It is a variant similar to South Africa, although there is no history of travel or contact with South African travelers,” Covas said. “There is a possibility that this is an evolution of our P1 towards this mutation in South Africa.”
Brazil is currently grappling with the worst phase of its epidemic, the second deadliest in the world after the United States. The slow rollout of vaccines and the lack of social distancing are contributing to the skyrocketing number of cases in Brazil, pushing the country’s health system to the brink of collapse. Brazil currently accounts for about a quarter of daily COVID-19 deaths globally, more than any other country.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who has been criticized for his handling of the pandemic, signed a decree on Tuesday to disburse 5.3 billion reais ($ 918 million) in new loans to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. The new loans will be used to support Brazil’s health system, the finance ministry said. The health ministry, which will receive the funding, said it will use it in more than 2,600 public health clinics, as well as to build more hospital beds.
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