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Brazil and COVID-19—A Fleeting Glimpse of What Is to Come

  • 1Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts
  • 2Hematology Clinic, Hospital da Polícia Militar, Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil

Since its outbreak in December 2019, the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has reached virtually every corner of the globe. As the world’s fastest growing hotspot, Brazil has become Latin America’s most affected country, with more than 3.2 million confirmed cases and more than 100 000 deaths, ranking second to the United States.1

With a population of more than 200 million residents, Brazil ranks sixth among the most populous countries and ninth among the world’s largest economies. However, Brazil also ranks high for its significant socioeconomic disparities. More than one-fifth of its population lives in poverty, mainly Black and mixed-race individuals. Among Black and mixed race residents, 13.5 million earn only US $1.90/day, and an equal proportion live in favelas (slums), with overcrowded and poor sanitary conditions.2 Illiteracy rates remain high, reaching 20% in those older than 60 years and virtually double among Black individuals than White individuals.3 Of greater immediate concern, unemployment has affected more than 12% of the country’s workforce; informal jobs and unpaid leave account for 30% to 60% of this.4 Despite government cash-transfer schemes, including roughly US $110 per month (less than one-quarter of the country’s average monthly per capita income), many have not yet benefited from them. While logistical issues may partly explain this, fraud at various levels has also prevented financial aid from reaching millions in need. Of these, more than 10 million are rural workers who largely depend on family farming for their livelihood. One might thus expect the millions in poverty to be those who bear the brunt of the pandemic.

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    3 Comments for this article
    Politicizing COVID19
    Rolando Ceddia, PhD | University
    The author should have mentioned that the Supreme Court in Brazil, which has become an activist institution, ruled against President Bolsonaro with respect to his ability to decide how to manage the pandemic at the state level. Responsibility was given to governors and mayors to decide whether or not to adhere to the lock down, and also how to manage federal aid of approximately R $ 60.15 billion given to states and municipalities and the Federal District to strengthen actions combating the new coronavirus. President Bolsonaro has provided financial support to all states and municipalities to fight the pandemic. The author is correct to mention that corruption has become a major impediment for effective combat of the pandemic in Brazil, but forgot to say that the corruption is also being identified in states run by governors that oppose President Bolsonaro. Moreover, the narrative that President Bolsonaro threatens the stability of the country’s democratic institutions is a fallacy. This is often spoken without providing any evidence that supports it. The author should be impartial and present a clear picture of the economic and political situation of Brazil.
    Lack of Precise Data and Misinformation
    Eduardo Silva, Medicine | Hospital comum
    Both the commenter and the author of this piece are not saying anything new or helpful related to this horrible virus. No one really can say what is really is going on. The "PhD", the first commentator, just repeated what is being said ad nauseam by Brazilian media. We need data. And what is interesting is how many different vaccines are being tested.
    Brazil Lacks a Capable Leader in the Federal Government
    Roberto Garcia, PhD | Research Institute
    We were lucky to have governors and mayors that tried to follow the WHO recommendations. Of course, their management of the crisis was far from perfect. But if we were in the hands of the president, it would have been much worse. What does he do except "prescribe" chloroquine for everybody? And give bad examples of how not to behave in the middle of the pandemic?