PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil – Brazil is immersed in a battle against the new Covid-19 variant of the Amazon that threatens to send shock waves around the world.
Home to less than 3% of the world’s population, Brazil currently accounts for almost a third of daily global deaths from Covid-19, driven by the new variant. More than 300,000 have died, and daily deaths now exceed 3,000, a figure suffered only by the much more populous United States.
“We are in the trenches here, waging a war,” said Andréia Cruz, a 42-year-old nurse from the emergency room in the southern Brazilian city of Porto Alegre. In the last three weeks alone, the surrounding state of Rio Grande do Sul has seen nearly 5,000 people die from Covid-19, more than in the last three months of last year.
The spread of the virus in Brazil threatens to turn this country of 213 million people into a danger to global public health. The so-called P.1 strain, present in more than 20 countries and identified in New York last week, is up to 2.2 times more contagious and up to 61% more capable of reinfecting people than previous versions of the coronavirus, according to a recent study.
P.1 is now responsible for the majority of new infections in Brazil, and many doctors here say they are seeing more young and otherwise healthy patients fall ill. About 30% of people who die from Covid-19 are now under the age of 60, compared to an average of around 26% during Brazil’s previous peak between June and August, according to official figures analyzed by The Wall Street Journal. .