The two figures came in at the same time, on the same Wednesday. The first is the price paid for the second: the high number of deaths that made the Brazilian GDP the one that fell the least in the region – even less than the negative 5.3% predicted by the IMF-. Those in Brazil who think they paid dearly for what is ultimately too little are getting more and more. But if there is someone who still seems to be on a horizon remotely distant from this persuasion, and who does not seem to be approaching even an inch in the near future, it is the Brazilian president himself. Furthermore, Jair Bolsonaro is a strict observer believer that there is a qualitative leap and an insurmountable categorical difference between the pandemic and the quarantine.
For more than a year, when on February 26, 2020, Luiz Henrique Mandetta, then Minister of Health, reported the first case of COVID-19 in Brazil, Bolsonaro neither changed his mind, nor did he change it. His doctrine has the advantage of being simple and immovable. The new contagious viral disease is a flu like the previous ones. Just as it came, it will go, and it will leave its line of deaths. The isolation measures that the Government may order against are useless because they are artificial, because they are limited, or they are tests of the results of which we ignore everything in advance except what we know for sure: the quarantine irreparably damages the national economy.RELATED
According to Wednesday data of the Conselho Nacional de Secretários de Saúde (CONASS), Brazil is the country with the most infections in Latin America: almost 11 million (10,718.63). And more deaths: more than a quarter of a million (259,271), the country with the most deaths in the world after the US. And on Wednesday the record for daily deaths approached two thousand a day (1912), after weeks of a thousand daily deaths. On the same Wednesday, the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) reported that the last year’s economic growth rate It has been the smallest since 1996: GDP in 2020 fell 4.1% compared to 2019. Even so, the Brazilian economy has also been the one that has fallen the least among all those in the hemisphere. But on the two figures weighs the greater and overwhelming threat that the Brazilian health crisis will turn into a global crisis, fueled in turn in its acceleration by the greater speed of contagion and lethality by the new strain born precisely in Brazil.
The first brazilian case He was a 61-year-old businessman from São Paulo, admitted to the Hospital Israelita Albert Einstein, where he had presented the now classic symptoms of a dry cough, fever, sore throat and runny nose. He had returned, by plane, from a trip that he had made for his work and that had taken him to the richest region of Italy, Lombardy, whose demographic of high age average was the biggest victim and the biggest source of infections and death in the country .
That first Brazilian case was also the first Latin American case, at a time when this region and Antarctica were the only two that had not yet been affected by the pandemic. After the announcement, the Brazilian stock market collapsed 5% for fear of the effects that the virus could have on the markets. Throughout the year, the pandemic that had come to stay grew in Brazil, and not only because of this ‘zero patient’, it would be public health that would be most damaged, in a growth that saw few truces, and less, although only proportionally, the economy.
In countries such as Brazil or regions such as Lombardy (Italy), a pandemic such as COVID-19, whose highest mortality occurs among the older people and beneficiaries of the public pension system, or, as just revealed Thursday in the report of World obesity, people with obesity as a comorbidity, with the demands of special attention that they exert on social security, the payment of the expenses that their retirements, pensions and services mean has been discontinued with the deaths, although the demand and pressure on the hospital system has increased.
For some scientists, such as the Brazilian neuroscientist Miguel Delelis of Duke University, in dialogue with the British newspaper The Guardian, the international community must intervene in the Brazilian health crisis. If the virus is allowed to proliferate at the levels at which it is proliferating, it will favor the appearance of new mutations and even more lethal variants, is the thought of Delelis, who spent most of last year confined in his department in western São Paulo , monitoring the disease.
The origin of the particularly worrying Brazilian variant has been found in Manaus, in the capital of the state of Amazonas, and the most important city in the Brazilian Amazon region, with more than two million inhabitants, which in January suffered an increase in hospitalizations, the total occupation of beds in the Intensive Care Units (ICU), and, what was even worse, the lack of oxygen tubes, to the point that ICUs had been equated with asphyxia chambers. A dozen cases of this variant had crossed the Atlantic and arrived to Great Britain
“It is a battlefield,” said Luiz Antônio Nasi, medical superintendent of the Moinhos de Vento Hospital, the largest of the private network in Porto Alegre, to the local newscast of the Globe network. Not only in the Amazon is the Brazilian health crisis raging, but also in the southern states, the richest in the country. Sao Paulo, the richest and most populated state in the country, with 46 million inhabitants, is also the one with the highest number of deaths (60,014) and cases (2 million since the start of the pandemic, out of the 10.6 million registered infections throughout Brazil). The governor of São Paulo, João Doria, decreed on Wednesday the return for two weeks to the “red phase” of restrictions.
According to Nicolelis, Bolsonaro’s failure to stop the outbreak, which follows the days of clandestine celebrations of a carnival that was banned for the first time in the country’s history, is joined by the failure to launch a massive and sustained vaccination campaign. . All this contributes for the most populous nation in Latin America to sink into the pandemic in conditions that seem unlikely to lift until the end of 2022, but at the same time emerge as the spearhead of a global crisis. Nicolelis anticipates that in March of next year the border of half a million deaths will have already been surpassed. In a world, he says, where the heights of tragedy were those of Bergamo in Lombardy and Manaus a few weeks ago, what happens in Brazil in the coming months will play a leading role in the catastrophe whose contours and depths we refuse to see today.
In a federal country like Brazil, the creation of a national COVID-19 response commission and a three-week national quarantine are Nicolelis’s proposals. President Bolsonaro continues to denounce the quarantines. The national crisis becomes global to the extent that the Brazilian government has become an external risk and not only an internal one. After the defeat of Donald Trump in the North American presidential elections in November, Bolsonaro, who like his colleague, model and ally fell ill and was cured of COVID-19, and who, like him, has sabotaged social distance, has promoted, as If they were magic cures, remedies with unproven beneficial effects such as hydroxychloroquine, and the use of chinstraps has been underestimated or undervalued, it seems without exaggeration to deserve the title conferred by parades and banners from opponents who ask for its impeachment, that of global enemy number 1 of the pandemic. Or friend, depending on how you look at it.
However, Bolsonaro has key support, in the Armed Forces, in Congress, but also in its bases. This former right-wing deputy and former Army captain owes his arrival to power in the 2018 presidential elections to an antipolitical campaign against the old Brazilian party and especially against the memory of the years of the Workers’ Party (PT) of Lula and Dilma Rousseff. It is with the same argument that Bolsonaro defends his position in the face of the pandemic: everything I did, he insists, I did to defend the economy of Brazil and the lives and pockets of Brazilians. “Since March of last year, there was not a single thing I was wrong about,” he told his supporters this week the 65-year-old president.
Not only in the streets do they ask for the impeachment of Bolsonoro. Other figures from the world of politics and public health also ask for his head. Minister of Public Health of Brazil during the 2009 swine fever pandemic, José Gomes Temporão maintains that Bolsonaro’s performance has been so poor that both the president and those most responsible for his administration must be called by Congress or the Justice to account for their actions.
There is no national plan in the Ministry of Health on how to combat COVID-19 throughout the territory. After the trial with the Chinese laboratory Sinofarm, the Bolsonaro government did not ensure the provision of sufficient doses nor did it sign contracts with companies such as Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson. So far, only 3.3% of the Brazilian population has been vaccinated, compared to 15.2% in the US and 18% in Chile.