The first case of COVID-19 was registered in Brazil on February 26, 2020, becoming the first in South America. The coronavirus was carried out from a 61 years-old man, returning to Sao Paulo from Italy at the time the epicenter of COVID-19.
Two months later, the largest and most populated country in the hemisphere South, registered a devastating 5,901 deaths from coronavirus with an increase of 8% or 435 casualties in only one day (Minister of Health Brazil COVID-19 on April 30, 2020). As of April 30, 2020, the total confirmed cases of coronavirus had reached 85,380, with an increase of 7,128 cases in just one day. Brazil has become the new epicenter of coronavirus in South America.
On April 30, 2020, the total number of coronavirus in Brazil (85,380) has officially surpassed China, a country with a 14x times larger population with 82,862 total cases of COVID-19 (Worldometers, 2020). As expected, the most populous cities in Brazil are the most affected by the virus. Sao Paulo registered 28,698 confirmed cases, followed by Rio de Janeiro with 9,453, and Ceara with 7,606 confirmed cases. Brazil is in a very grim scenario, the Minister of Health released data that shows a clear growth tendency of COVID-19 cases; as well as speculations from Health Specialist states that “the real number of coronavirus cases in Brazil are much higher than those reported” (The Guardian, 2020) while others estimated over 1 million infected people in the country (ABC News, 2020).
Brazil is facing a health crisis where the lack of management to fight the spread of COVID-19 and to increase rates of recovery is primarily associated with failed policies from officials reluctant to believe the potential health risks of COVID-19. The issue became evident in Pres. Bolsonaro’s speeches, who still compares the “new coronavirus” with a “little flu,” while disregarding the scarce global data about COVID-19 causes, symptoms, treatment, and potential side effects in a population.
More recently, on Tuesday, April 28, when Pres. Bolsonaro answers a reporter’s question about his opinion on more than five thousand deaths from COVID-19 and the fact that Brazil has surpassed China in total COVID-19 cases. Pres. Bolsonaro said: “So, what? I am sorry! What do you want me to do? My name is Messiah, but I do not work miracles!” and complementing with an “apologize” after he was aware that the broadcasting was on live by saying: I regret the situation we are going through with the virus. We sympathize with the families who lost their loved ones, that most of them were older adults. But it is life! I will go tomorrow! (G1.Globo.com, 2020).
The unexpected, questionable, and non-empathetic words of Pres. Bolsonaro to the media raised reactions from citizens and politicians in Brazil. Citizens are manifesting their frustration in social media and questioning why Bolsonaro remains in power. Moreover, politicians like Randolee Rodrigues from the Rede/AP political party has expressed his discontent with the popular statement on live TV criticizing “…the lack of solidarity and disdain in the words of Pres. Bolsonaro to the families that lose their loved ones and highlighting that …the main responsible for the worsening of the health crisis in Brazil is Jair Bolsonaro”. Similarly, Senator Alessandro Molon PSB/RJ stated, “… this is unacceptable that the President has such an inhuman stance...” (G1.Globo.com, 2020).
After the comparison of COVID-19 with the little flu by the Pres. Bolsonaro, the lack of government’s actions to fight the coronavirus continued. Brazil has shown no commitment to preventing the spread of the coronavirus within and outside the country. Also, reasonable policies such as social distance between Brazilians or closing borders to avoid contagion in neighboring countries are not being enforced. Brazil nows sees nearly 6 thousand deaths, right after the former Health Minister, Luiz Henrique Mandetta, who advocated for social distance, was fired.
The Brazilian government and neighboring countries must carefully analyze and reassess the current policies to face the COVID-19 crisis. Brazil has a large population of older citizens densely concentrated in central cities. Also, Brazil has high rates of poverty concentrated in the north of the country, where health services are limited. COVID-19 does not recognize borders, so even though neighboring countries are taking action to prevent the virus spread, Brazil, the state with more borders in South America, is becoming a serious health threat for Latin America. On April 30, 2020, there is no vaccine to treat COVID-19, and the world is far from deploying a solution for its 7 billion citizens.