Brazilian Pandemonium: COVID-19 Kills Over 300K

A little after a year since the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Brazil and its population is suffering under a steady increase in the daily number of cases. Over 300,000 deaths have occurred since the first reported contamination on February 26, 2020, when a 61-year-old resident of São Paulo took a trip to Italy, returning with the coronavirus.

Pandemic data in Brazil shows alarming numbers. The total number of cases as of March 27, 2020, tallied over 12.3 million with 10.8M recovered patients and over 303,462 deaths. The latest daily death tolls are recorded as their highest ever, with over 3,650 deaths a day.

These numbers have many calling on investigations into genocide as reports have shown Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro enacted policies to spread the coronavirus.

Between all Brazilian states, 18 of them (Alagoas, Amapá, Bahia, Espírito Santo, Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul, Minas Gerais, Paraíba, Paraná, Pernambuco, Piauí, Rio de Janeiro, Rio Grande do Norte, Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina, São Paulo, Sergipe, and Tocantins) plus the Distrito Federal (Federal District) showed an increase in number of cases, while six states showed stability in the number of cases (Acre, Ceará, Goiás, Maranhão, Pará, and Rondônia) and two states showed a decrease in numbers (Amazonas and Roraima).

Among the Brazilian states, São Paulo appeared the most affected with 2,332,034 confirmed cases, with 2,013,250 recovered people and 68,623 deceased. The least affected state was Acre, that showed a total number of cases of 66,290, the number of recovered people was not released and the number of deceased was 1,201.

Failed Government Response

Public mistrust with both the ruling and opposition parties has grown since the beginning of the pandemic. Government officials have been blamed for the lack of adequate response to COVID-19 in the workplace, schools, economically, financially, and especially in health care.

The health minister’s lack of preparation, the absence of COVID-19 governmental regulations and initiatives, the political confrontations, along with savage capitalism putting money over people and the irresponsibility of a large part of the Brazilian population to curtail the spread of the virus, COVID-19 was allowed to grow increasingly out of control and lethal.

With the alarming inefficiency of Bolsonaro’s government, private hospitals have struggled to meet public demands; with the lack of return and the spending on resources, it’s likely some private health institutions will file for bankruptcy from the pandemic. That can also be related to the non-existent government investment in research, which is failing to equip higher education institutions that focus on medical research. This exacerbates the worry over the low vaccination numbers and high demands on hospitals.

On the other hand, the health industry keeps profiting on vaccine distribution even with some medications not being certified as an immunizer for the virus, which is the case of the 2 million doses of Chloroquine, sent by the former Trump Administration as an “act of solidarity” from the U.S. to Brazil.

Brazilian immunization is progressing in slow steps with the vaccination still in early stages of its roll-out and plenty of logistical difficulties from the delay in its purchase and excessive demand. In Brazil, the immunization rates are less than 5% of the population. Compare that to Israel, where almost 100% of its citizens have been immunized.

The few available doses in Brazil are not sufficient for the immunization of the Brazilian people in the next six months. Furthermore, whether it’s because of distribution, lack of organization or social condition, in most cases the less privileged don’t have access to proper health care or vaccines.

Past Brazil Coronavirus Coverage:
Brazil Nears 200K Deaths as Politicians Continue to Downplay COVID-19 – December 20, 2020
The Coronavirus Crisis in Brazil – An Interview with EmiciThug – May 22, 2020

Bills Keep Coming

The elderly have suffered with a lack of attention and care. Perhaps even more concerning are the “compulsory workers,” those who have no choice but to get out of their houses and go to work, for they need to do it to sustain their families. The bills keep coming to their homes and with the lapse of financial aid, most of the Brazilian people need to work to keep their income and take care of their families, making the “theoretical” isolation, and other counter COVID-19 measures ineffective. Aid will be back in April, but with stipulations.

The crowded buses and always-open neighborhood businesses are concerning examples of the theoretical fight against the pandemic. The people shouldn’t be exposed to the virus but have to pay ever-increasing bills.

It’s the case for Nathan das Neves, 29-years-old, also known as MC 2N du TG, who opened a barbershop less than a year ago in a peripheral neighborhood called Nova Esperança II, in Cariacica/ES, and due to regional and state decrees, now has no options to sustain his family.

MC 2N du TG, cantor de Funk, Cabeleleiro

I don’t know what I’m going to do, I’ll keep my establishment open, my family needs me and I need this to keep them safe.

MC 2N du TG

“We Became a Global Menace”

With the increasing infection numbers, the deaths also increase. As the federal government insists on continuing to deny the pandemic, people have given up on the isolation and the few imposed directives and regional and state decrees. Separate from the federal government, many Brazilian states decreed lockdowns, in spite of the critics. To many, it’s a measure that becomes necessary when the federal government abstains itself from its constitutional duty to manage the pandemic and aid the states.

People started to normalize their lives without being immunized after the delayed purchase of vaccines, provoking mutations on the virus. New variations emerged in silent and overpowering ways in many Brazilian regions. Due to their numbers, it’s been hard to identify symptoms and treatments, since people react differently to the virus.

The coronavirus, once thought to represent a risk only to the elderly, is now affecting the younger population more and in severe ways, maybe due to the fact that many in this class of people are not taking this pandemic seriously.

Brazil is an example of everything that could go wrong in a pandemic. We have a country with a leadership that, besides not implementing control measures, undermined the ones we had, like social distancing, use of masks and, for a long time, the vacation. We became a global menace.”

Denise Garret, infectologist, former member of the USA Health Department’s Center for Disease Control (CDC) and current vice-president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute (Washington)

The lack of transparency about the real COVID-19 situation in Brazil creates a series of other silent problems. One is the case of homeless people, who practically have no tracked record of contamination.

The Return of the “Savior”

In this scenery of abandonment, neglect, chaos, insecurity and uncertainty, emerges a “savior”, a well known character for the Brazilian people, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, better known as Lula, in the words of José Rosa Cardoso, “The only former president we want back.

There are those who want Lula out of the game, those who want him back, those who take him as a hero, and those who take him for a criminal. But, historically, the fact is: in the time the former president was leading Brazil, the country emerged, becoming a protagonist in the world. Amongst the numerous improvements his government brought was the IMF debt discharge and the foundation of many social programs like the Bolsa Família, Minha Casa Minha Vida and the ProUni, which allows many low-income people to access higher education.

Such is the case of 20-year-old Josayne dos Santos, who is currently in the first semester of a private college with a 100% scholarship obtained with her ENEM grades and ProUni. It would be important to her for the former president Lula to return, because, “even with people pointing him as corrupt, without evidence, he brought many benefits to the country, in the economy, education, health… Always prioritizing the lower income population demands.

Josayne dos Santos, University Student

While the world is fighting the pandemic and trying to stop living this “new normal,” in the Brazilian favelas the armed wing of the state, the police, continue their “social cleanse.” Since the pandemic, there hasn’t been a day where police operations have ceased. In Rio de Janeiro alone, 377 actions were accounted since March 2020. For years, Brazilian law enforcement has averaged an astonishingly high 17 killings per day.

If the pandemic and its troubles weren’t enough, the police violence, the social inequality, and an ongoing war between drug factions for territory shows us that Brazil doesn’t just need a vaccine for COVID-19, but also a injection for more humanity.

Article translation from Portuguese to English by Jules Rey.

Cover image via @belempop_.

See update from Brazil: “Brazil is Asking for Help” – Artists and Activists Speak Out

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