Brazil has recorded its first confirmed case of the highly contagious Covid-19 variant discovered in South Africa, a fresh danger sign for a country already ravaged by the world's highest daily death toll fueled by a widespread local variant.
Last week, scientists at the Butantan biomedical institute said the case, identified in a woman in Sao Paulo state, might be a new local variant. Further analysis confirmed it as the first known local case of the variant widely circulating in South Africa and elsewhere.
Scientists fear a showdown between the South African variant and the already rampant Brazilian variant, known as P.1, both of which are more contagious and possibly more deadly than the original version of the coronavirus and have led to accelerated Covid-19 surges.
"It could be a huge duel," said Maria Carolina Sabbaga, one of Butantan's coordinators for studying new variants. "I think P.1 has already taken over. I'm not sure if the South African will overtake P.1, let's see."
The South African variant in studies appears to lessen protection from current vaccines.
Brazil is in the midst of a brutal Covid-19 wave, setting records for deaths on a weekly basis. On Tuesday, the Health Ministry reported a single-day record of 4 195 deaths.