By Arthur F Beaugeard
Brazillian President Jair Bolsonaro continues to deny the very real threat of the high infectious COVID-19 threat in Brazil, which has over 2,000 confirmed cases and dozens of deaths. Brazil is the 6th most populous nation on earth, with an inordinately large population of 210 million. With a sadly under-equipped healthcare system due to multiple budget cuts, health experts warn that the country could become an epicenter of the disease in Latin America. Brazil’s Health Minister Luis Henrique admitted that the health system would collapse at the end of April due to a lack of intensive care beds and other equipment.
Opposing the Health Minister’s opinion, Bolsonaro has said “If we cower, opt for the easy discourse, everyone stays home, it will be chaos. No one will produce anything, there will be unemployment, refrigerators will go empty, no one will be able to pay bills,” referring to the global economic collapse caused by the Coronavirus.
Career politician Jair Bolsonaro has accused the media of vastly overexaggerating the threat of the Coronavirus, and using Italy’s death toll to promote what he calls a hysterical “fantasy”. He supports religious leaders who refuse to suspend their services and has attended pro-government street demonstrations in recent weeks. He has openly criticized regional governments which have put their jurisdictions under lockdown, telling them to remove such restrictions.The public opinion is on the regional governments’ side, with their assessment of Bolsonaro substantially worsening during this epidemic. Sao Paulo Governor João Doria has threatened to sue the federal government if it continues to try and squash his efforts at protecting his constituents.
João Doria, among other governors who are defying Bolsonaro’s orders, was once one of Bolsonaro’s staunchest supporters.
23 members of Bolsonaro’s staff have been infected with the virus, but Bolsonaro claims that he has tested negative despite refusing to make the results of his test public. He continues to shake the hands of his supporters at rallies.
Despite their attempts to organize themselves and mount a defense, Brazil’s poor will be hit hardest by this epidemic. The country is littered with slums, or favelas, that are extremely cramped and often experience a paucity of the running water needed to wash one’s hands. Furthermore, the people in these slums are so destitute and lacking in savings that they must keep going to work every day, which will spread the virus. Strong correlations can be drawn between the living conditions in the favelas of Brazil and the slums of Mumbai. If Mumbai’s poor are left without financial support during this crisis, thus continuing to mingle with others while they have not properly bathed, they will begin to get sick, too, just as the poor are