With over 1.2 million active cases and over 51 thousand deaths as on 30th June 2020, Brazil is one of the worst coronavirus affected countries. Latin America became the epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic in the latter half of May, largely due to Brazil’s incompetency in dealing with the pandemic. Due to the underreporting and low testing rates, the actual number of active cases and deaths are unknown.
The Brazilian Ministry started making changes to the number of cases reported, making it even harder to control the situation the pandemic has caused. The country’s response has been widely criticized in Brazil and outside. The President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, dismissed the threat of the virus and the pandemic. OnMarch 26, 2020, he said that Brazilians are immune to the virus and even if they are drunk in a sewer they “don’t catch a thing.” He defied the guidelines set by his own health ministry and visited a busy commercial district in Brasilia, the capital of Brazil, where he told all the elderly Brazilians to get back to work. He also went on TV many times and called it little flu and accused the media of hysteria. Even as the coronavirus crisis has worsened recently, some major cities have eased their preventive measures, like Sao Paulo opening up shopping malls in Mid-June and beaches getting crowded again. With all of this happening, hospitals are close to running out of intensive care beds.
In early March, Brazil declared a public health emergency, a few days after the World Health Organization. The Ministry of Health in Brazil urged the officials to cancel all the public events and reinforce the measures of social distancing as prescribed by the World Health Organization. Some experts thought that Brazil could handle the pandemic based on its records during past public health emergencies. Brazil’s health care system is underfunded, but it does not fail to provide robust coverage across the country. The efforts of the state government went awry when the President called the virus a “cold” and provided anti-malaria tablets as a solution to the virus. President Bolsonaro’s clash with the governors and officials led to two health ministers leaving- one was fired and the other one quit. This left the military general, with no public health training, in charge of the virus. The clash amongst the government left the citizens of Brazil uncertain about the importance of following the preventive measures kept in place to prevent the spread of the virus. This led to the defying of the measures, which in turn led to the pandemic’s rate being one of the highest in the world.
The Ministry of Health has not presented a comprehensive plan to beat the virus yet. One of the main initiatives by the Ministry of Health is to boost the production of hydroxychloroquine and has encouraged the doctors in the public healthcare system to prescribe the same. The country has struggled to import lifesaving instruments, like coronavirus tests and ventilators. The lack of tests, in turn, has made it difficult to track the spread of the virus. This might result in the undercount of cases of the virus in the country. Between Jan. 1 and June 6, 23,171 people who were not diagnosed with the coronavirus died from acute respiratory infections, according to data released by Fiocruz, one of Brazil’s state-run health research institutes. Experts believe most of them died from coronavirus.
At a time when Brazil needs to be putting all its efforts into fighting the virus, the president has been wrapped up in his own political battles. The Supreme Court is investigating allegations of disinformation and intimidation by the President’s supporters. Investigations also state that he has interfered in federal police investigations to protect his family. Due to this, the tensions between President Bolsonaro and the judiciary are high.
During the past few months, politics have become bigger than the pandemic. Even though the health crisis is extremely important, the magnitude of the political scandals has had a huge impact on how the country reacts to the pandemic. There is anger over how President Bolsonaro is handling the crisis and at the same time, there is a fear as to where the country is headed after the pandemic passes.