During the first phase of Brazil’s fight with the coronavirus, it was the elderly who mainly were getting sick and dying from Covid-19. However, starting the New Year, Brazil has sloped into its worst days of this pandemic so far. Daily death and the number of cases have crushed previous records.

While there is a surge, a worrying pattern that has emerged is more young people seem to be getting gravely ill and dying from Covid-19, as shared by doctors.

It leads to the question of why is new variant infecting more young people and making them sicker. Or is it that young people are behaving in ways that make them more vulnerable to become infected? Or it could be some combination of both?

The pattern is observed across the country where intensive care physicians keep mentioning that their patients are younger than ever in this latest wave.

“We have otherwise healthy patients that are between 30 and 50-years-old and that is the profile for the majority of patients,” said Dr. Pedro Archer, an intensive care physician at a public hospital in Rio de Janeiro. “That is the big differentiator in this latest wave.”

Brazil’s Health Ministry circulates national statistics on the ages of Covid-19 victims. An AFP analysis of data from that ministry establishes the number of people aged 30-59 characterized about 27% of Covid-19 deaths over the past three months or so, which is a 7% increase from pre-December numbers.

State health officials in São Paulo, Brazil’s most populated state, mentioned earlier this month that their data back up detailed testimony from doctors across the country about the extreme number of cases in younger people.

Related officials mentioned 60% of younger patients with Covid-19 required ICU beds, a higher figure than the former in the pandemic.

For doctors, seeing younger patients die is especially brutal.

“Death for a person in their 30’s is very, very painful,” said Dr. Maria Dolores da Silva, a 42-year expert of intensive care medicine in São Paulo. “They have their whole lives ahead of them, and Covid takes it.”

The growth in both illness and death in younger people has matched the rise of at least one Covid-19 variant in Brazil.

Referred to as P.1 variant, which scientists say started from Brazil, is widely agreed upon to be more easily transferable, up to 2.2 times so according to a recent study.

As per the March 4 study of eight Brazilian states by national health research institute Fiocruz, it was more than half of all Covid-19 cases in six states were “associated with variants of concern” including P.1 and variants first spotted in the UK and South Africa.

“These new variants may be more lethal, but we don’t have scientific data to confirm that,” mentioned Jesem Orellana, a Brazilian epidemiologist. “But what we do know is that the P.1 variant is more transmissible, and that plays a big part in this second wave.”

Experts also hint at increasing parties around the new year and carnival holidays in the initial part of the year. 

There are videos of illegal gatherings found online, and authorities in cities trough out the country are writing imposing fines and breaking up parties every weekend.