Brazil has now recorded the second highest Covid-19 death toll in the world, behind the US, after the country exceeded 2,000 Covid-related deaths in a single day.
Earlier this week, the country’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, downplayed the threat of the virus and told people to “stop whining”. The comments have come under criticism from the country’s former leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
Brazil still under immense pressure
The recent surge in Covid-19 cases in the South American country has seen the health systems close to collapse.
Magreth Dalcolmo, a doctor and researcher at Brazil’s largest public health centre Fiocruz, told AFP news agency that the country was “at the worst moment of the pandemic,” adding that “2021 is still going to be a very hard year.”
The current death rate in the country is 128 deaths per 100,000 people - the 11th highest figure amongst 20 of the worst affected countries in the world. The UK has 188 deaths per 100,000 people.
On Wednesday (10 March), Brazil recorded 78,876 new cases of Covid - its third highest in a single day.
The sudden increase in new cases has been attributed to the spread of a new highly contagious variant of the virus called P1.
Fifteen of the country’s intensive care units are operating at more than 90 per cent capacity, including in the cities of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo.
Since the start of the pandemic the country has recorded 268,370 deaths as a result of Covid-19.
World Health Organization Director, General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has described the situation in Brazil as "very concerning" and warned of a possible regional spillover.
What is the new P1 variant?
The P1 Covid variant is thought to have originated in the city of Manaus, and preliminary data suggests the variant could be up to twice as transmissible as the original version of the virus.
Data also suggests the new variant could evade immunity built up by having previously contracted Covid-19, with the chances of reinfection placed at between 25 per cent and 60 per cent.