Amid flu and Covid spikes, São Paulo runs out of tests

flu Covid spikes São Paulo tests
Photo: Nao Novoa/Shutterstock

As expected by health experts, the holidays boosted Covid infections — and worsened the flu epidemic which broke out in several states late in 2021. As has been the case in other countries, Brazil is learning the value of rapid Covid testing kits the hard way.

Pharmacies and laboratories in the country’s biggest city São Paulo have been unable to cope with the sheer demand for tests, with potentially infected patients facing extensive waits of between two days and one week to book Covid-19 exams.

This afternoon, The Brazilian Report tried to make Covid-19 appointments at the city’s three biggest pharmacy chains, but none had available slots for Tuesday. Just one month ago, citizens had no problem scheduling tests on the same day.

The demand for tests comes shortly after the end-of-year holidays, a period which involves significant travel and gathering with friends and family in close quarters. The city of São Paulo reported that municipal hospitals provided care to over 20,000 patients with respiratory issues in the first three days of the year alone. Over half of them are suspected to be infected with Covid-19.

Rapid tests are by no means as effective as their PCR counterparts, but they can deliver quick results and help contain a new wave of cases. While the Omicron variant has caused much less severe infections in vaccinated people, its impressive surge has raised many economic concerns about how it will impact work and reduce consumption.