Brazil-Florida travel continues despite risk of spreading deadly P1 coronavirus variant

MIAMI – France suspended all flights from Brazil on Tuesday, yet Florida’s daily flights to and from Brazil continue despite the risks of a more transmissible coronavirus variant.

Brazil has the second-highest death toll in the world after the United States. More than 350,000 people have died of COVID-19, including about 1,300 babies.

Epidemiologists said the high transmission rate in Brazil increases the risk of more deadly variants. University of Sao Paulo researchers reported Brazil’s P1 coronavirus variant is mutating into a version that could be resistant to vaccines.

“Anyone going to Brazil needs to understand what the situation is,” said Dr. Aileen Marty, an infectious disease expert with Florida International University.

The remains of a woman who died from complications related to COVID-19 are placed into a niche by cemetery workers and relatives at the Inahuma cemetery in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Tuesday, April 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance is urging people to avoid all travel to the country and listed it at a high level 4 risk. According to the CDC, there have been 126 verified cases of the P1 coronavirus variant in Florida.

President Joe Biden’s administration has already restricted travel from Brazil for anyone who is not a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident. Also, the U.S. Department of State requires returning fliers to show a negative coronavirus test to board their flights.

COVID-19 patient Everton Nascimento de Oliveira, 32, receives treatment at the emergency unit of a field hospital set up for COVID patients in Ribeirao Pires, greater Sao Paulo area, Brazil, Tuesday, April 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Andre Penner) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who has the backing of right-wing politicians in charge of Congress, has protected the economy at all costs.

Marty said hospitals are overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases in Brazil. Officials reported there is an increasing number of people who are younger than 40 years old who are dying of COVID-19. During the second wave, gravediggers have been working right into the night.

Cemetery workers wearing protective gear lower the coffin of a person who died from complications related to COVID-19 into a gravesite at the Vila Formosa cemetery in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Wednesday, April 7, 2021. The city of Sao Paulo started the daily addition of 600 graves in its municipal cemeteries on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Andre Penner) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Marty said all travelers — even those who are fully vaccinated — should also be tested for the coronavirus within three to five days of arrival to South Florida.

“Could it be more stringent? Yes, it could. But of course, you always have to balance needs. There are reasons why people must travel back and forth,” Marty said about the U.S. regulations for travel to and from Brazil.

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About the Authors:

Amy Viteri is an Emmy Award-winning journalist who joined Local 10 News in September 2015. She's currently an investigative reporter and enjoys uncovering issues facing South Florida communities. A native of the Washington, D.C., area, she's happy to be back in South Florida, where she earned a masters degree at the University of Miami.

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.