Sao Paulo  —  Brazil has detected a new Covid-19 variant in Sao Paulo state that is similar to the one first found in SA, the head of the state's Butantan biomedical institute said on Wednesday.

Speaking at a press conference the day after Brazil suffered a record 3,780 deaths in a day, Butantan president Dimas Covas said the patient with the variant had no history of travel to SA.

The variant has alarmed public health experts as there are questions over how effective current vaccines are against it. Brazil is also grappling with its own home-grown variant, called P1, which appears to be fuelling a record-breaking run of infections.

“It is a variant similar to that [first found] in SA, though there is no history of travel or contact with travellers from SA,” Covas said. “There is a possibility that it is an evolution of our P1 towards this mutation in SA.”

Brazil is grappling with the worst phase of its outbreak, the world's second-deadliest after the US. A slow vaccine rollout and lack of social distancing are contributing to Brazil's spiralling caseload, which is pushing the country's health-care system to the brink.

Brazil now accounts for about a quarter of Covid-19 daily deaths worldwide, more than any other country.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who has come under fire for his handling of the pandemic, on Tuesday signed an executive order to disburse 5.3-billion reais ($918m) in new loans to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

The new loans will be used to prop up Brazil's health system, the finance ministry said. The health ministry, which will receive the funding, said it will use it at more than 2,600 public health clinics, as well as to build more hospital beds.



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