Brazil’s rampant coronavirus outbreak has become a global threat that risks spawning new and even more lethal variants, one of the South American country’s top scientists has warned as it suffered its deadliest day of the pandemic.
Speaking to the Guardian, Miguel Nicolelis, a Duke University neuroscientist who is tracking the crisis, urged the international community to challenge the Brazilian government over its failure to contain an epidemic that has killed more than a quarter of a million Brazilians – about 10% of the global total.
“The world must vehemently speak out over the risks Brazil is posing to the fight against the pandemic,” said Nicolelis, who has spent most of the last year confined to his flat on the west side of São Paulo. “What’s the point in sorting the pandemic out in Europe or the United States, if Brazil continues to be a breeding ground for this virus?”
Nicolelis said the problem was not simply Brazil – whose far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, has repeatedly spurned efforts to combat a disease he calls a “little flu” – being “the worst country in the world in its handling of the pandemic”.
He said: “It’s that 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.”
Already, one particularly worrying variant (P1) has been traced to Manaus, the largest city in the Brazilian Amazon, which suffered a devastating healthcare breakdown in January after a surge in infections. Six cases of that variant have so far been detected in the UK.