BRAZIL’S Covid outbreak risks spawning even DEADLIER strains that “could force the world back into lockdown” despite jabs, an expert has warned.
Neuroscientist Miguel Nicolelis has slammed Brazil as a “virus breeding ground” after its coronavirus death toll smashed records for the second straight day with 1,910 fatalities in 24 hours.
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At least 12 Brazilian states are in the midst of a second wave – piling pressure on burial sitesCredit: AFP or licensors
People work at the burial of a Covid victim at a cemetery, in Manaus, Amazonas, BrazilCredit: EPA
In each of the last five weeks, Brazil has averaged more than 1,000 daily deathsCredit: Reuters
The expert, a professor at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, told The Guardian: “The world must vehemently speak out over the risks Brazil is posing to the fight against the pandemic.”
He revealed his fears despite a massive rollout of jabs across the UK and America, asking: “What’s the point in sorting the pandemic out in Europe or the US, if Brazil continues to be a breeding ground for this virus?
“If you allow the virus to proliferate at the levels it is currently proliferating here, you open the door to the occurrence of new mutations and the appearance of even more lethal variants.”
He condemned Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, for failing to protect people from the disease, saying the far-right leader had allowed the country to serve as “an open-air laboratory for the virus to… eventually create more lethal mutations”.
Prevention has never been a priority for Bolsonaro, Nicolelis and other experts have said.
Since the pandemic spread worldwide in early 2020, Bolsonaro scoffed at the killer disease as just a “little flu”.
He also lashed out at local leaders for imposing restrictions on activity, saying Brazil’s economy must keep going to prevent worse hardship.
The latest number of Covid cases, according to Worldometers’ Brazil stats
The Sun showed this death and case tally a few days ago – but Brazil reported 1,910 more Covid fatalities in 24 hours after 1,641 died on Tuesday
Nicolelis also told El Pais: “We are going to get into an explicit war situation. We could have the greatest humanitarian catastrophe of the 21st century on our hands.”
The doctor, who is a columnist for the newspaper, warned that Brazil could shortly start recording 3,000 daily Covid deaths.
He added: “The virus’s growth rate is exponentially faster than the ability to create, equip and provide people with an ICU bed.”
The expert also said the virus in Brazil is “mutating out of control” with “new variants that are more lethal and more contagious. Each variant has its own dynamics”.
He warned of a ‘time bomb’ as variants in the UK, the US and elsewhere are “superimposing on each other”.
The professor was asked if those who had recovered from Covid infections “months ago could end up being reinfected”.
Nicolelis replied: “If you have been contaminated with the original Brazilian variant, the antibodies you have developed are nine times less effective in combating the new Amazonian variant.
“Why do we have to get the Influenza vaccine every year? Because variants arise. But what we are having in terms of the number of infected with the coronavirus is very serious, so the chance of the virus mutating is much greater.”
Meanwhile, Brazil’s spiralling death toll – now close to 260,000 – has been exacerbated by a slow Covid jab rollout, despite the country struggling with 10.7million cases, to date.
On March 3, Reuters reported that the Brazilian government had finally reached an agreement to buy 100million doses of Pfizer vaccine.
Pfizer offered Brazil jabs last year but the Health Ministry did not take up the offer. Later talks dragged out over differences regarding liability clauses.
New variants of the coronavirus are worrying experts
In each of the last five weeks, Brazil has averaged more than 1,000 daily deaths.
And today health bosses reported that Brazil broke its deaths record for the second straight day with 1,910 fatalities in 24 hours after 1,641 died on Tuesday, a situation its public health institute described as alarming.
Dr Hans Kluge, World Health Organisation’s (WHO) regional director for Europe, urged countries to “increase vigilance for variants that pose a threat of increased transmissibility or severity”.
He warned: “We are seeing a resurgence in central and eastern Europe.
“Over a year into the pandemic our health systems should not be in this situation. We need to get back to the basics.”
Health bosses around the globe are battling various mutant strains, including “B.1.1.7, initially identified in the UK, which has been reported in 43 countries; B.1.351, identified in South Africa, is in 26; while P1, identified in Brazil and Japan, is in 15 [countries],” Dr Kluge added.
His warning comes after The Sun reported how the Brazilian variant could reinfect people who’ve already had Covid – and be twice as transmissible, according to scientists.
Early data from the city of Manaus – where the variant emerged – suggests the mutation has various extra capabilities.
In the UK, six cases of the variant have been detected so far.
Miguel Nicolelis, a Duke University neuroscientist, is horrified by Brazil’s response
Intensive Care Unit (ICU) ward in Belo Horizonte, state of Minas Gerais, BrazilCredit: AFP or licensors
The tens of thousands of deaths in Brazil are putting pressure on cemetery workersCredit: AFP or licensors
Research by the University of São Paulo, in collaboration with British universities, shows the variant, called P1, is between 40 per cent and 120 per cent more transmissible.
P1 adds to a catalogue of concerning strains circulating in the UK, each with their own characteristics.
A variant that originated in the UK, which goes by the nickname the “Kent variant” is dominant, causing several hundreds of thousands of cases so far.
And the South African variant has been detected hundreds of times – prompting surge testing across England.
But Covid vaccines to fight variants will be fast tracked for approval, the UK regulator has said.
Experts have previously said a vaccine-resistant Covid variant is likely to emerge at some point – but jabs can also be adapted quickly.
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said this month that there is no evidence that current vaccines are lacking effectiveness against known coronavirus variants.
MHRA chief executive Dr June Raine added during a recent press briefing: “Since December last year we have all been concerned about the appearance of variants – Kent, South Africa, more recently Brazil – and therefore we’re well-prepared to look at, when it’s needed, updates to ensure the vaccines being used in citizens are fully effective.
“Our goal is to ensure that the vaccine modifications in future that respond to the new variants can be available in the shortest possible time but without compromising in any way on safety, on quality and on effectiveness.”