Oxygen supplies are flown to the coronavirus-hit Amazonas state by the Brazilian army, as fears grew worldwide on Friday over a new Brazilian variant of the disease, which researchers say could be contributing to a sharp rise in cases there. Nearly six thousand people have died in Amazonas from COVID-19, and it’s now in the grip of a devastating second wave.
Scientists are trying to work out whether this variant is more contagious than earlier ones. But there are signs it is spreading overseas. That concern led Britain to ban travelers from Brazil and other South American countries as a result, as well as banning Portugal, which has close ties to Brazil.
After Japan said it had detected the Brazilian variant in four travellers from Amazonas. Amazonas has extended its urgent call for oxygen to the United States, as hospitals in the capital, Manaus, neared breaking point. Scores of patients are being airlifted from Manaus – an isolated city deep in the Amazon rainforest – to other states. The variant found in Brazil has 12 mutations, including one also found in the highly contagious variants discovered in Britain and South Africa. Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro has been lambasted for downplaying the severity of Brazil’s outbreak, though it’s the world’s second-deadliest. As pressure mounts on the country to get vaccinations underway, he cast doubt on the shot’s efficacy on Thursday. As a leader I wouldn’t force you to take it, he says, adding that it isn’t, quote, “scientifically proven”. Brazil plans to start inoculations in the middle of next week.
The inoculation campaigns in Developing Nations is hitting snags everywhere. According to FT, Narendra Modi has kicked off one of the world’s most ambitious inoculation drives in the midst of growing vaccine skepticism over the contentious approval of an indigenously developed jab.
The Indian prime minister launched the campaign with an emotional live address on Saturday, saying “the nation has been desperately waiting for this moment” and warned against “false propaganda” about vaccine safety.
But New Delhi’s approval of Covaxin, a vaccine developed by Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech, before phase 3 trial data was released has been criticized by healthcare experts and stoked vaccine skepticism. A survey this month by pollster Local Circles found that 69 per cent of respondents were hesitant about getting a jab.
China on Saturday finished a five-day construction project on a 1,500-room hospital as clusters of COVID-19 spread in Beijing and the surrounding provinces. China has reached a 10-month high for COVID cases and on Friday reported 168 cases.
It remains possible that China — the site of the original coronavirus outbreak — has been underreporting its cases, claims Axios.
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Mexico posted its second straight day of more than 20,000 coronavirus cases Saturday, suggesting a surge in a country already struggling in many areas with overflowing hospitals.
There were 20,523 newly confirmed cases Saturday after 21,366 infections were reported Friday. That was about double the daily rate of increase just a week ago. Reporting normally declines on weekends, suggesting next week may bring even higher numbers.
The country also recorded 1,219 more deaths, a near-record. The country has now seen almost 1.63 million total infections and has registered over 140,000 deaths so far in the pandemic.