The essentials The P1 variant has been raging in Brazil for several weeks. And it worries doctors and the French government, who have decided to suspend all flights to the country. But where and when did it appear, is it so dangerous, should we really worry in France … We take stock.
Where and when did the Brazilian variant appear?
The so-called “Amazonian” variant, also called P1 or “BR-P1”, was first discovered on January 2, 2021 by a Japanese tourist who had stayed in Brazil. Investigations carried out later showed that the variant appeared as early as November 2020 in the city of Manaus in the Amazon region.
In which countries does it circulate?
The “Brazilian” variant quickly spread across the country. Its greater contagion and total lack of control in Brazil allowed it to spread to neighboring countries or even the entire continent. It is therefore found in many countries in South America, particularly in Chile, but also in Canada or the United States.
According to the World Health Organization, the variant was reported in 52 countries on April 13.
Countries, territories and areas that declared the “Brazilian” variant to be WHO on April 13, 2021
How is the situation in Brazil?
This variant quickly became the majority in Brazil and, according to the WHO, increased from 28% of the specimens collected in January 2021 to 73% in March 2021.
The situation is currently critical in the entire Brazilian territory and especially in the large metropolises. The epidemic has already killed more than 373,000 people – a largely undervalued number that experts say makes it one of the most bereaved in the world. The daily number of deaths can reach 4,000.
The Brazilian variant is also spreading rapidly and uncontrollably in a number of South American countries, particularly Chile.
How is the situation in France?
So far, no signal for a certain development of the Brazilian variant has been observed, confirms the Scientific Council in its statement of April 16. In fact, this variant is currently in the minority in France and only accounts for around 0.3% of new infections as of March 30, 2021.
According to experts, mainland France is currently likely partially protected by the British variant, which leaves the Brazilian with practically no room for development.
In Guyana, a French department with a border of more than 700 kilometers with Brazil, the incidence increased sharply for four weeks, with the Brazilian variant predominating.
Is it more dangerous than the other variants?
The Brazilian variant is particularly worrying because of its contagion. “It has a high level of transmission,” the Scientific Council said in its April 16 statement, stating that it is, however, lower than the UK variant. According to preliminary information from Public Health France, the Brazilian variant is 40 to 120% more transferable.
However, there is no evidence that it is more deadly. “We don’t yet know if it is more deadly,” we can read in the latest statement from the Scientific Council.
Another cause for concern is that the BR-P1 variant affects younger people more severely. In fact, in Brazil, a significant proportion of patients with severe form are under 50 years of age.
Are Vaccines Effective?
The Brazilian variant is also of concern because of its greater resistance to existing vaccines against Covid-19. The specialists therefore speak of “immune escape”. “The mRNA vaccines have a conserved but reduced efficacy compared to the BRP1 variant,” concludes the latest Scientific Council opinion.
“Although we know that the vaccination works naturally with the English mutant, we see a loss of protection with the Brazilian and South African variants,” explains the virologist Bruno Lina, member of the scientific council, in Le Parisien.
To prevent it from spreading, the government has announced travel restrictions for Brazil, Argentina, Chile, all of which are affected by the Brazilian variant, and South Africa, where another mutation of the virus is widespread.
Flights to Brazil are temporarily suspended and travelers from these countries must undergo repeated tests and a controlled 10-day quarantine. Government spokesman Gabriel Attal assured Europe 1 on Monday that failure to comply would be punished with fines of “1,500 euros, 3,000 euros in the event of a repeated crime”, “an extremely strict framework” and “deterrence”.
Restrictions that also apply to travelers arriving from Guyana.
Read also: Covid-19: France imposes a quarantine for travelers from Brazil, Argentina, Chile and South Africa