Scientists in Brazil say they have detected the first known case of infection by the South African COVID-19 variant known as B.1.351 in the city of Soracaba. The infected woman had not travelled abroad nor come into contact with anyone who had, raising fears of community transmission in a country already wracked by another deadly variant of the virus.
Researchers at the Federal University of Minas Gerais also warned of a possible new variant from their analysis of collected samples from the city of Belo Horizonte. It has raised fears that the newer variants, both highly contagious and possibly more dangerous, would lead to greater fatalities. Brazil reported 3,829 deaths on Wednesday.
Brazil's slow vaccination programme and the scepticism and hostility shown by its President Jair Bolsonaro against enforcing social distancing measures has also come under criticism. Both the AstraZeneca and Sinovac shots deployed have been shown as effective against the new strains of COVID-19 but death rates are still climbing in Brazil.
The private sector in Brazil has begun lobbying for a controversial new bill allowing private-sector purchases of vaccines for their employees in a desperate attempt to get the economy back on its feet even as the pandemic rages.
The companies will be required to donate the same number of shots they acquire back into the public health system.