For the first time, evidence of the coronavirus variant circulating in Brazil has become known in Germany. The mutant was discovered when a traveler returned to Hesse, said Hesse’s Minister of Social Affairs Kai Klose (Greens) on Friday in Wiesbaden.
Virologist Sandra Ciesek said that the person arrived in Frankfurt from Brazil on Thursday. The mutation discovered in Brazil was detected in a PCR test in the laboratory. The sequencing is still pending.
Klose and Ciesek did not want to comment on the details of the case. It was reported from an airplane that a person who tested positive was on board. To her knowledge, this had no symptoms. Because of the country of entry, one had a closer look at the pathogen.
Travelers from Brazil are currently under special observation. In a Covid-19-related travel warning from the Federal Foreign Office it says: “Due to the variant that has occurred, Brazil has been classified as an area with a particularly high risk of infection (virus variant area) since January 19, 2021.”
Why the Brazilian mutation is so treacherous
The Brazilian variant, like the mutations from South Africa and Great Britain, is apparently more contagious than the original variant of SARS-CoV-2. It gives researchers headaches for another reason, as reported by the journal Science.
The mutation has been spreading mainly in Manaus, Brazil, since December. So far, scientists have assumed that the city has already achieved herd immunity because three quarters of the residents were infected with SARS-CoV-2.
But now there is concern: the mutation could infect people who have already been immunized as well as those who have been vaccinated.
The vaccines available so far could no longer completely cover the various virus variants and would have to be changed, according to the experts.
The Frankfurt virologist Martin Stürmer confirmed to BILD that there are already indications that the vaccine needs to be improved. “I assume that the researchers at Biontech are observing this very closely,” he says. There is still no big reason to worry. However, he thinks it is entirely possible that we will need multiple vaccines in the next few years that cover the various virus variants – similar to the flu vaccine.
That is how dramatic the situation is in Manaus
The health system has collapsed in the Brazilian Amazon metropolis of Manaus, where the mutation is already raging. Because of the many Covid 19 patients, the clinics in the metropolis lack oxygen.
“You don’t want to take my father in. He’s dying here ”, calls Marcos Platiny and points to a seriously ill man on a stretcher. Then he leans desperately against the closed door of the Campos Salles emergency medical center in western Manaus. A doctor came out and tried to reanimate his father, to help bring him somewhere else, Marcos tells tearfully on television. But he was told that it was in vain.
There are almost no free public hospital and intensive care beds in Manaus. The health system has collapsed for the second time.
Brazil, where vaccinations only started on Monday, is one of the countries hardest hit by the corona pandemic. So far, more than 8.6 million people in the largest country in Latin America have been shown to have been infected with the corona virus – only in the USA and India are the numbers even higher.
In addition, almost 213,000 patients have died in Brazil in connection with Covid-19 – this is second in the world. Manaus, the capital of the state of Amazonas, last recorded the most hospital stays in connection with Covid-19 since April 2020.
This time, however, not only are the clinics overcrowded, not only new graves are being dug. This time the hospitals in the city of two million in the middle of the rainforest are also running out of oxygen. “That’s the most dramatic thing,” says Padre Cândido Cocaveli, who looks after communities in the state of Amazonas from Manaus and is supported by the Catholic aid organization “Adveniat”. “It’s total collapse, including the authorities.”
And: “My WhatsApp is like a register of the dead,” says Padre Cândido already now.
In view of the chaos and suffering around them, corona patients are asking to be released from the hospital, family members are desperately trying to get oxygen from somewhere, reported the newspaper “O Globo”. According to the organization Doctors Without Borders, the city’s capacity for oxygen production covers less than a third of current demand.
Brazilian health minister Eduardo Pazuello admitted on Monday that he had been warned about a week before the collapse that oxygen could be scarce.
Finally, the Brazilian Air Force delivered oxygen to Manaus and flew patients to other states. President Jair Bolsonaro said last Friday: “We did our part with financial means.” Even from the neighboring crisis state Venezuela, whose socialist dictator Nicolás Maduro does not recognize Brazil’s right-wing head of state, trucks with oxygen arrived on Tuesday.
The delivery of more than 100,000 cubic meters of oxygen was reported to correspond to a day and a half. This is how the people of Manaus shimmy from day to day and from delivery to delivery. “We are still waiting to see if they can deliver again. The health workers are very apprehensive because we do not know whether the oxygen will be sufficient or not, ”a doctor told the newspaper“ El País ”.
The Amazon metropolis was also one of the first Brazilian cities to collapse in the first wave. According to scientists, Brazil is likely to experience one of the worst periods of the pandemic in the coming weeks.
The possibly particularly contagious virus mutation that was found in Manaus exacerbates the situation. In the community of Coari, for example, 450 kilometers from Manaus up the Amazon River, seven Covid 19 patients died on Tuesday alone because they could not be supplied with oxygen, according to the news portal “G1”.
“The complicated thing is: we are 62 parishes in the state, and only the capital has intensive care beds,” says Padre Cândido. The state of Amazonas is around 4.5 times larger than Germany.