Spatiotemporal pattern of COVID-19 spread in Brazil

Unmitigated spread in Brazil

Despite an extensive network of primary care availability, Brazil has suffered profoundly during the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic. Using daily data from state health offices, Castro et al. analyzed the pattern of spread of COVID-19 cases and deaths in the country from February to October 2020. Clusters of deaths before cases became apparent indicated unmitigated spread. SARS-CoV-2 circulated undetected in Brazil for more than a month as it spread north from Sã o Paulo. In Manaus, transmission reached unprecedented levels after a momentary respite in mid-2020. Faria et al. tracked the evolution of a new, more aggressive lineage called P.1, which has 17 mutations, including three (K417T, E484K, and N501Y) in the spike protein. After a period of accelerated evolution, this variant emerged in Brazil during November 2020. Coupled with the emergence of P.1, disease spread was accelerated by stark local inequalities and political upheaval, which compromised a prompt federal response.

Science, abh1558 and abh2644, this issue p. 821 and p. 815


Brazil has been severely hit by COVID-19, with rapid spatial spread of both cases and deaths. We used daily data on reported cases and deaths to understand, measure, and compare the spatiotemporal pattern of the spread across municipalities. Indicators of clustering, trajectories, speed, and intensity of the movement of COVID-19 to interior areas, combined with indices of policy measures, show that although no single narrative explains the diversity in the spread, an overall failure of implementing prompt, coordinated, and equitable responses in a context of stark local inequalities fueled disease spread. This resulted in high and unequal infection and mortality burdens. With a current surge in cases and deaths and several variants of concern in circulation, failure to mitigate the spread could further aggravate the burden.