“It’s a real tragedy, one of the worst Brazil has ever known“, sociologist Celso Rocha de Barros told AFP, while this country of 212 million inhabitants has suffered some 1,000 daily deaths on average for more than a month.
The first confirmed case of Covid-19 was identified in Sao Paulo on February 26, and the first death on March 16, also in the largest megalopolis in Latin America. “At that time, Brazil was starting to organize itself to fight the pandemic“, explains to AFP Paulo Lotufo, epidemiologist of the University of Sao Paulo.
But the death and contamination curves then flew away. The images of express burials in six minutes in Sao Paulo or mass graves in Manaus froze the blood.
In June, Brazil became the second most affected country after the United States. The milestone of 100,000 deaths should be crossed this weekend.
“Afraid of what ?“
For Mr. Lotufo, the rapid reaction of mayors and state governors, who took more or less strict containment measures in March and increased the number of intensive care beds, was hampered by the lack of coordination from the federal government .
Far-right President Jair Bolsonaro has repeatedly played down this “little flu“which he himself and his wife caught. He has undermined efforts to limit the movement of people, in the name of the survival of the economy, and has confined himself to promoting the ‘hydroxychloroquine, the reverse of science.
A week ago, when the country passed the milestone of 90,000 dead, this president who has never expressed empathy for the victims or for an exhausted medical staff, blurted out: “this virus, everyone will catch it one day. What are you afraid of?”
Pour Celso Rocha de Barros, “confinement is not a natural thing, it must be coordinated by a leader who brings political credibility“. “We must explain to society that it is very hard, but necessary, otherwise it will be a slaughter. In Brazil, the opposite message has passed“, continues the sociologist.
In the midst of a health storm, two pro-containment health ministers left the government in less than a month. Since mid-May, this key ministry no longer has an incumbent, but a general appointed on an interim basis.
Under pressure from Jair Bolsonaro, deconfinement, deemed precipitated by specialists, began in June in most states, again without any national coordination. And this despite a sharp increase in contamination in several regions and a still very high number of daily deaths. Images of crowded black beaches and bars full of customers sparked debate over the apparent indifference of Brazilian society to the tragedy.
“Brazil is already used to very high mortality due to violence“, believes Celso Rocha de Barros. Besides that”the well-to-do classes often attach little importance to the dead in poor neighborhoods“.
The coronavirus has hit black and disadvantaged populations more and has wreaked havoc in the favelas where the poorest Brazilians are crowded. In the Amazon rainforest, he has also mowed down the lives of many indigenous people, including great caciques, lacking access to healthcare.
“Feeling of helplessness“
Pour Paulo Lotufo, “the behavior of the population in the coming weeks will be decisive“, while some states are starting to consider reopening schools.
“It’s shocking to see people partying when so many are dying. My brother just spent 30 days in intensive care and his stepmom died“, deplores Andre Rezende, VTC driver.
“Me, I go out only because I have no choice, I need the money“, he adds.
“Many people are going back to their normal lives. Some people think you should try to live a normal life because there is no solution“, said Celso Rocha de Barros.
And many are putting their faith in the two vaccines currently being tested in phase III in the huge country.