Over the last year, as most of the world reeled from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Brazil took the situation somewhat lightly. Indeed, a study earlier this year contends that the South American nation's handling of the pandemic has been the worst in the world. And even as the country's death toll hits dizzying heights in recent days, President Jair Bolsonaro is telling the people of Brazil to "stop fussing and whining" about the deadly outbreak. Incidentally, his remarks came after the outbreak has already killed more than 260,000 people in Brazil.
Bolsonaro's remarks are however only the latest in a slew of bizarre or misleading comments made since the pandemic began. He has railed against masks, questioned the need for social social distancing, and even created doubts about the use of COVID-19 vaccines. While he does appear to have softened his stance somewhat on the latter, the situation is far from normal at present. Heath officials have been calling for shutdowns as intensive care units near capacity and the death toll spikes alarmingly.
Over the last few weeks, Brazil has seen protests break out as many call for President Bolsonaro's resignation. But the problem in Brazil goes beyond mere administrative hindrances. While one can say that the official stance has certainly not done the country any favours, the situation is also being amplified by the new COVID-19 strain that has pervaded Brazil.
Known officially as P1 and P2, the Brazilian COVID-19 strains have also made their way to other countries around the world. While both have affected people in Brazil, it is P1 that is far more worrying to experts. According to the UK’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group, P1 may have increased transmissibility as well as the possible ability to escape natural and vaccine acquired antigenic immunity. Studies suggest that some of the existing vaccines (such as Sinovac Biotech’s COVID-19 vaccine) may not prove effective against this strain.
As per some reports, the new variant is 1.4x to 2.2x more contagious when compared to over variants found in Brazil. At the same time it is also far more capable of reinfecting people who had previously suffered from a previous strain.