BRAZIL’s unchecked Covid explosion is a “threat to humanity” and could scupper hopes of bringing the pandemic under control, experts warn.
The country is being ravaged by the deadly P1 variant from Manaus – which is at least twice as contagious and has been shown to reinfect patients who have already had older strains.
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Cemetery workers in protective suits carry a Covid victim’s coffin in Sao Paulo yesterdayCredit: Reuters
Relatives of Tereza Santos mourn as her coffin arrived for burialCredit: Reuters
Vila Formosa is one of hundreds of cemeteries filling with Covid victims across BrazilCredit: Reuters
Brazil already has the second highest death toll in the world at over 266,000.
And hospitals are on the brink of collapse in much of the country as the mutant P1 strain causes a second wave much deadlier than the first.
Experts say the situation is a “disaster” – not just for Brazil but for the whole world.
They warn the lack of effective controls in Brazil makes it a “human laboratory” for new mutations to emerge and spread.
Officials say “variants of concern” including P1 have become dominant across most of Brazil.
“This information is an atomic bomb,” Dr Roberto Kraenkel of the Covid-19 Brazil Observatory told the Washington Post.
“I’m surprised by the levels found. The media isn’t getting what this means.
“All of the variants of concern are more transmissible…and this means an accelerated phase of the epidemic. A disaster.”
Yesterday Brazil recorded 1,972 Covid deaths, a new daily high, and cases are up 38 per cent in a week to more than 70,000 a day.
Experts say the death toll will top 3,000 a day later this month.
Brazil has been hit by a second wave far deadlier than the first
Meanwhile an alarming report said intensive care wards have been stretched to breaking point by a tide of seriously ill patients.
Brazil’s Fiocruz Institute warned of the “overload and even collapse of health systems”.
Fiocruz epidemiologist Jesem Orellana added: “The fight against Covid was lost in 2020 and there is not the slightest chance of reversing this tragic circumstance in the first half of 2021.
“The best we can do is hope for the miracle of mass vaccination or a radical change in the management of the pandemic.
“Today, Brazil is a threat to humanity and an open-air laboratory where impunity in management seems to be the rule.”
P1 has been detected in at least 27 other countries including the UK and US, although only in small numbers so far.
It emerged in Manaus in December, and swept through the Amazon jungle city – even though antibody tests indicated 76 per cent of people already been infected with coronavirus.
A study showed it can reinfect 60 per cent of sufferers by dodging the body’s immune response.
There are fears it might also evade vaccines, although scientists are hopeful existing jabs will have some effect.
Medics care for a seriously ill Covid patient in a field hospital at a sports arena in Sao PauloCredit: AP:Associated Press
Sao Paulo’s Bras station was heaving on Monday, the first day of a ‘red phase’ lockdownCredit: Getty Images – Getty
President Jair Bolsonaro told people to ‘stop whining’ about coronavirusCredit: Reuters
Protesters accused him of genocide because of his lack of action to stop spiralling deathsCredit: Rex Features
Brazil’s anti-mask president Jair Bolsonaro has continued to downplay the virus even as the crisis spirals out of control.
Earlier this week he told people to “stop whining”, and added: “How long are you going to keep crying about it?
“How much longer will you stay at home and close everything? No one can stand it anymore.
“We regret the deaths, again, but we need a solution.”
In the absence of national action, city and state authorities have imposed their own measures but usually to little effect.
Sao Paulo, the commercial capital, imposed a “red phase” lockdown on Monday with all non-essential businesses closed.
But pictures showed underground trains rammed as huge crowds continued to commute into the city.
Brazil has placed its hopes instead on a vaccine program with ambitious plans to buy or manufacture more than 450million doses this year.
But it was hit by fresh delays this week as a technical fault halted local production of the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab.
Last night Brazil’s health minister begged China to send 30million doses of the Sinopharm vaccine.
He admitted the “scarcity of international supply” was putting the national campaign in danger.
Experts say rich countries should do more to ensure vaccines reach the rest of the world as that is the best way to stop the threat of new mutations.
“No country is going to be safe if not all countries have controlled their outbreaks,” Dr Denise Garret of the Sabin Vaccine Institute in Washington told DailyMail.com.
“We can vaccinate as much as we want in the US and reach herd immunity, but as long as we have outbreaks that are uncontrollable in other countries, the frontiers will still be open.
“In countries like Brazil where there are no restrictions and the virus is loose, it’s really a breeding ground to variants.”
A sports arena in Sao Paulo has been turned into a field hospital for Covid patientsCredit: AP:Associated Press
Patients are treated at a makeshift Covid ward in the capital BrasiliaCredit: AP:Associated Press
Cemeteries have filled with Covid victims in jungle city ManausCredit: AFP
Tuesday saw Brazil’s highest ever Covid daily death toll of over 1,900Credit: Reuters
Hundreds of fresh graves have had to be dug in the city of ManausCredit: Reuters