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Brazil’s Covid ‘atom bomb’ could go worldwide, experts warn

South American giant on verge of becoming a ‘breeding ground’ for new variants

Brazil’s largest cities are facing the collapse of their health systems, experts have warned, after the country yesterday reported 1,972 Covid deaths - a new daily record.

Fiocruz, Brazil’s health institute, has warned that more than 80% of intensive care beds are occupied in 25 of the country’s 27 state capitals, amid fears that “the highly contagious variant in Brazil may have knock-on effects in the region and beyond”, the BBC reports.

“Brazil is a threat to humanity”, Fiocruz epidemiologist Jesem Orellana told the Agence France-Presse news agency. “The best we can do is hope for the miracle of mass vaccination or a radical change in the management of the pandemic.”

Brazil is the second most badly affected country in the world, having recorded 268,370 Covid deaths and over 11 million infections, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Concern is rising that “the failure to control the virus poses an international threat that will undermine the hard-won gains other countries have made”, The Washington Post reports.

The uncontrolled spread of the virus has turned Brazil into “an explosive breeding ground” for the more infectious Covid strain discovered in the Amazon in January, the paper adds. “As viruses course through a population, they inevitably mutate”, meaning further strains could emerge from the South American giant.

“This information is an atomic bomb,” Roberto Kraenkel, a biological mathematician with the Covid-19 Brazil Observatory, told the paper. “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”, he said. “A disaster.”

President Jair Bolsonaro has “sought to downplay the threat posed by the virus” since the beginning of the pandemic, the BBC reports. Earlier this week, he told Brazilians to “stop whining” as he criticised measures to curb the virus.

“How long are you going to keep crying about it?”, Bolsonaro said. “How much longer will you stay at home and close everything? No one can stand it any more. We regret the deaths, again, but we need a solution.”

But with nurses having to manually pump patients’ lungs due to ventilator shortages, refrigerated containers waiting outside hospitals to take away overflowing bodies and cemeteries running out of space, a solution is needed sooner rather than later.

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