COVID-19 variant originally detected in the UK and Brazil has become endemic in Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro, the state and municipal governments of Rio de Janeiro confirmed in a joint announcement.

The state and municipal health authorities of Rio de Janeiro have been tracking the medical history of five patients confirmed to be infected with the variants found in the UK and Brazil for six weeks.

The study found that only one of the four patients infected with the P1 variant, which was originally detected in Brazil, was a critically ill patient referred from the city of Manaus in Amazonas state, while the remaining three were all locally transmitted cases in Rio.

Concerns that the new variants in the UK, SA and Brazil could be more contagious:

A patient infected with the B.1.1.7 variant, which was originally detected in Britain, was reported to have not left Rio recently.

At present, of the five patients, a local patient infected with the P1 variant and a patient referred from Manaus were confirmed dead, while the remaining three have recovered.

Local infectious disease experts are concerned that the emergence of the variants detected in both Britain and Brazil could trigger a wider and faster spread of the disease.

“The variants have demonstrated the viral adaptability. When a person produces antibodies against the virus, mutations arise and replicate. The new variant penetrates the recipient cell through spikes on its surface and binds to the cell, causing damage to the human body,” said Hermano Albuquerque de Castro, medical pneumologist, Flocruz researcher and national director of the National School of Public Health.

Since the current vaccination rate in Brazil is far below the 80% to 90% needed to effectively stop the spread of the virus, compliance with health regulations is deemed crucial to slow the epidemic, Castro said.

Ceara and Bahia, two of Brazil’s most severely affected states, have recently announced night curfews to reduce people’s movement and gatherings.