At a time when vaccination campaigns are continuing with great success in most developed nations, Brazil — which has 2.7 percent of the world’s entire population, has experienced 13 percent of the total Covid-19 fatalities on the globe.
What makes scientists fear most is that there are no signs that the pandemic there is going away anytime soon. Since the virus first began to spread on the vast continent, just after Carnival time in 2020, South America has become the hardest-hit continent anywhere on earth.
Brazil recently hit and passed the milestone of 500,000 official Covid-19 deaths, which represents the world’s second-highest total behind the United States.
One in every 400 people in Brazil died with coronavirus
However, most officials recognize that the true total is likely much higher in the world’s fifth-largest country, which has 211 million inhabitants and is almost as large as continental Europe.
Official statistics say that approximately 1 in every 400 Brazilians has died from the coronavirus, but many experts believe the true death toll may be a great deal higher than that.
President Jair Bolsonaro — who himself caught Covid-19 and survived — has been at the helm of his country’s efforts in dealing with the pandemic, and the results are disturbing.
In a country that already suffered from one of the most polarized economic situations between rich and poor, with a turbulent political atmosphere, the virus worsened each parameter that measures life quality in the nation.
For many months, the New York Times reports, Bolsonaro failed to even acquire the adequate number of vaccines to treat the population, and social distancing measures, mean to keep the virus at bay, were not enforced well enough.
Marcia Castro, the chair of the Department of Global Health and Population at Harvard University, told the Times “As a Brazilian, it’s appalling to see the throwback following three decades of health achievements happening so fast, with devastating consequences.”
The Brazilian state of Amazonas saw disturbing scenes in January of this year, as the coronavirus began to spread to even the most remote area of the enormous country.
Physician’s biggest fear was infecting others
Patients were seen literally suffocating to death as Bolsonaro’s government failed to respond to warnings about oxygen shortages until it was too late.
Vaccination campaigns are now ongoing but the country is still struggling to vaccinate people who live in the region’s isolated villages, which are many times deep in the rainforest.
Often only accessible by river, these areas present a great logistical challenge to a nation that has routinely marginalized them in the past.
The leadership of the country has assured Brazilians that they should not live in fear, engendering a dangerous naïveté about the real threat of the virus.
The social distancing and strict lockdowns that the rest of the world imposed on their own people were overreactions that would devastate the country’s already-fragile economy, Bolsonaro claimed.
Before he himself became infected with the coronavirus, in March of 2020, Bolsonaro was cavalier. “In my particular case, given my history as an athlete, should I become infected, I would have nothing to worry about,” he declared. “I wouldn’t feel a thing, or at most, it would be a measly cold, a little flu.”
As it happened, the Brazilian leader did appear to suffer from only mild symptoms of the disease. But Brazilian physicians were appalled at the president’s comments.
Bolsonaro fired the health minister that he had first appointed, back in April of 2020, after their disagreements over the virus containment were publicized.
The second health minister under the Brazilian leader was only in charge for a little over a month after clashing with Bolsonaro over the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial that has been used to treat the symptoms of Covid-19.
Next in line came Eduardo Pazuello, an Army general who has zero experience in health care of any kind. Brazilian lawmakers charge him for allowing the pandemic to spiral out of control, with the country’s health care system near collapse.
The pandemic did improve in the Fall of 2020, but worsened over the winter when people began spending more time indoors. The situation took a nose dive this Spring, however, when the daily death toll spiked to over 3,000 people per day in April.
Still hovering at approximately 2,000, victims per day, the death tolls are causing great worry among epidemiologists.
Francis Albert Fujii, an ER physician in São Paulo tells the Times that the virus killed two of his co-workers, a fellow physician and a nurse.
“My biggest fear wasn’t even getting sick,” he relates, “it was infecting someone.”
After the virus abated somewhat last Fall, this new wave of Covid-19 has been a bitter pill for the country to swallow.
“We’ve been in this battle for 15 months and there’s no way out of the crisis,” Fujii says. “I’m very sad about the situation we’re in. We need leadership that believes in the disease and takes the situation seriously.”