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Brazil, Guilherme Henriques

How do our Leiden alumni cope with the restrictive measures in their country, the possible finding of a vaccine, medication to combat corona or how do they cope with working from home, with or without children? Read the story of Guilherme Dias Henriques (Latin American Studies, 2019), living in Brazil.

Guilherme Dias Henriques
Guilherme Dias Henriques

Introduction

'My name is Guilherme Dias Henriques, Brazilian, 24, and I am a former master-student of Latin American Studies at Leiden University. I have studied there throughout the year of 2019 and I have recently graduated in my studies on February, 2020. 

The purpose of this text is to give people a brief overview on the current situation of Brazil amidst this sanitary, political and economic crisis that has been devastating lives and life perspectives all over the world since the end of 2019, and has taken Brazilians to the center of the world's concern.

Overview

As I write this text (05/20/2020), the official numbers of the Coronavirus infections in Brazil are at 271 thousand cases, with more than 17 thousand deaths and more than 3 thousand deaths waiting for COVID-19 exams. We, Brazilians, have come to almost three months into quarantine and people don't know exactly when we are reaching the peak of this pandemic event.
In the beginning of this week, the number of deaths rose 1.179 in 24 hours, which was a record (not a great one to be beaten) in Brazil during the crisis. This mark has only been reached by the United States (2.612 deaths in 24 hours), France (1.417), China (1.290) and the United Kingdom (1.172). 

Sanitary Measures

In the beginning of the crisis in late March, the Health Ministry declared quarantine measures for the Brazilian population, with the usage of masks, hand-sanitizing products and the implementation of social isolation.
Hydroxychloroquine was being considered as a fever, given the news that were spreading throughout the country. But this fever is not proven 100% to be the fighter against the other fever (the one that comes with the Coronavirus).

People in Brazil are (and have always been, in a certain way) easily induced by fake news, spread in WhatsApp groups and from ideologized TV channels. The problem with this is that pharmacies in places where the crisis is most devastating (in the Amazonas region specifically), were running out of this medicine, being bought by people who are not even sick or infected. They were buying in order to stock for an eventual infection. This has concerned the Health Ministry because 1) this medicine is not confirmed to be an actual cure and 2) even if it cures (or helps to cure), it is only for the people who are in hospitals or at home, infected and ill.
 
Public burying in the Amazonas (the biggest Brazilian state in area, but with lack of infrastructure in basic sectors of public investment) are full on speed, quarantine in several states are always being extended, because the peak never appears to come (or pass). Field hospitals are being inaugurated and there are some of them with full occupation already. Hospitals in Brazil have faced problems, for years now. The problem with Health measures is far from being recent or the major problem in this moment. 

Aerial view of coffins being buried at an area where new graves have been dug at the Parque Tarumã cemetery in Manaus. Photograph: Michael Dantas/AFP via Getty Images
Aerial view of coffins being buried at an area where new graves have been dug at the Parque Tarumã cemetery in Manaus. Photograph: Michael Dantas/AFP via Getty Images

Political Approach

It is good to observe that the institutional crisis which is spread in Brazil has not the Coronavirus disease as its major cause. It is just the tip of the iceberg for Brazilian politics. It is not recent that Brazilian institutions, such as Presidency, Ministries (Health and Infrastructure, specifically) have been dealing with problems in administration. Since the Dilma's administration, Brazilians face with bad policies concerning the public sector. 

The Bolsonaro administration has come to power with a revolutionary speech. With a promise to bring to an end everything that was bad in the previous government (led by the Leftist party - PT). The upcoming of the sanitary crisis has shown us that that speech of change was nothing but pure demagogy. We have heard from the President that the Coronavirus was "just a little flu". This kind of speech diminishes the effort of hundred of thousands in the world who are fighting against the disease.

The Coronavirus crisis has not reached the country as whole. There are some regions with more infections than others. Except for the cases of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro (1st and 2nd in the infection and death scale in Brazil with almost 90 thousand cases and 8 thousand deaths combined), which are the biggest states in population and in capital production and circulation, the other regions are suffering greater problems. The lack of infrastructure is structural, is rooted in the local institutions. The poorest states are dealing with 100% occupation in its hospitals. The solution is to implement full lockdown policies, but that's not enough for the time being.

I am not a critic of the current administration myself, but the political reform that was promised has not occurred. In fact, it has gotten worse. One Health minister was fired in the middle of this crisis and the other one left office, due to interference of the Executive in sanitary policies.
It is like, as a Brazilian comedian stated, "if an airplane was falling from the skies and the airline immediately dismisses the pilot in command". 

Perspectives

The economic scenario in Brazil is worrisome. Bankruptcy has taken place in the reality of small businesses and medium companies. As the former minister of Economy Henrique Meirelles stated, "with an evolution in the process" of containment of the Coronavirus, "the Economy will face a retraction of 7%". Stores are closed, restaurants are only on delivery mode and people seem to underestimate the crisis.

Churches are still open for the public, people keep going to the beach, having picnic meetings in the parks and doing marches in the streets in a "pro-government" movement. If we don't understand the dimensions of this crisis, it can affect us more than it has affected the rest of the world. Not because the Coronavirus has changed itself on the way here, but because we haven't changed the way we confront our problems.'

LInks

Brazil Coronavirus Cases
COVID-19 pandemic in Brazil Wikipedia
Brazilian Report Coronavirus

22.05.2020

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