Brazil’s Attitude Towards the Pandemic Poses a Serious Threat to the Region

Brazil’s Attitude Towards the Pandemic Poses a Serious Threat to the Region

Since the start of the pandemic, Brazil has become an epicenter for the spread of coronavirus in the region. Jair Bolsonaro has opposed lockdowns, supported unreliable medical treatments, and downplayed the impact of COVID-19 in the country. The eruption of the new Brazilian variant (known as P1) is dominating the country. This scenario has alerted leaders, who have taken measures to prevent this new and highly contagious variant from proliferating freely. The situation is becoming a threat to the region. The lack of policies can lead to the outbreak of new coronavirus variants that can alter vaccination plans in the rest of the continent.

The President’s Discourse

President Jair Bolsonaro’s attitude towards the pandemic has been worrisome and dangerous. For over a year now, he has been softening the severity of the crisis and ridiculing necessary measures. The examples are endless. In May 2020 he called coronavirus ‘a little flu’. In July, while sick with Covid-19, he praised hydroxychloroquine, a drug proven ineffective and dangerous for its deadly side effects.

The Brazilian government’s policies and attitudes towards the pandemic have deepened the already severe political polarization between the President’s supporters and the opposition. His supporters are taking Bolsonaro’s claims seriously and have challenged social distancing measures. On the contrary, many citizens have criticized and protested against the government’s handling of the pandemic. Likewise, President Bolsonaro’s attitude towards vaccines has affected public opinion. After calling them “experimental vaccines with no scientific evidence” in January 2021, 17% of the population will refuse immunization, according to a recent survey.

The P1 Variant

The new Covid-19 variant has emerged in Manaus, northern Brazil. According to the experts, this new variant has proven to be more contagious and able to reinfect people who had already suffered from the illness. It is fuelling a deadly outbreak in the South American country, which has recorded on April 6 4,000 deaths in just 24 hours. As of April 8, Brazil has accumulated 13.2 million cases and 341k deaths. As a result, it has become a global epicenter, being placed second for most Covid-19 deaths after the United States.. 

Further, the country’s sanitary system is suffering from the worst crisis in history. 27 states are above 80% of ICU capacity. In São Paulo, the health system has already collapsed, with many patients dying while waiting for intensive care.

 The Region is Responding

Brazil’s neighbors have taken measures to prevent P1 from spreading in their countries, however, the advancement of the variant is now a fact. Argentina has already declared community transmission of the P1 variant. Uruguay’s cases are soaring. Paraguay’s sanitary system is collapsing. Chile has put 70% of its population under quarantine. These governments are blaming Brazil for the new coronavirus surges they are experiencing.

On top of everything, vaccination plans in the region are not even close to being completed yet. Argentina has vaccinated 4% of its population and Paraguay only 1%. Chile and Uruguay are leading immunizations, with 40% and nearly 10%, respectively. However, one of the major concerns of the region (and the world) is how the vaccines are responding to the deadly and more contagious variant since experts say some of them might not be effective against it.

Is Brazil a Threat?

The lack of measures that the government has taken to reduce coronavirus cases and deaths coupled with the president’s discourse has affected not only the country but the entire region. In this context, things are likely to get worse. The new variant has already spilled over the continent and countries are taking rushed measures to prevent a catastrophe. However, this is not the only issue that concerns experts and government, but that Brazil might become the cradle for new and more dangerous variants that resist Covid-19 vaccines altogether. The lack of lockdown measures and circulation restrictions allow the virus to proliferate and sway across the population, this may increase the risk for more lethal mutations.

Unfortunately, this possibility is becoming more of a reality with each passing day. Brazil has found a new strain that combines 18 mutations in Belo Horizonte. It has been declared that it combines characteristics of the existing variants but has also new ones, yet to be discovered. Although it is too early to prove if vaccines’ effectiveness may threaten, this suggests that Brazil has become a regional and global danger.

Is There a Way Out?

Amid criticisms from opposition leader Lula Da Silva, Bolsonaro has toned down his public attitude towards the pandemic. We see him wearing masks, encouraging the Brazilian population to get vaccinated, and he has even fired his deeply criticized health minister. However, he is not likely to change his stance on lockdown measures, which are necessary to stop the rapid spread of coronavirus and the emergence of new variants in the country. Brazil has vaccinated nearly 10% of its population. However, a group of British researchers has declared that vaccination without lockdown measures is likely to lead towards new variants like P1 since these more powerful mutations will evade immunizations.

To sum up, Brazil’s current pandemic context presents a high risk for the region. President Jair Bolsonaro has repeatedly announced that staying home is a synonym for being scared, avoiding lockdown measures for the population, and overlooking the 314,000 deaths that the country is facing. Although a small percentage of the population has already been vaccinated, Brazil’s lack of lockdown measures will lead to dangerous outbreaks of new Covid-19 variants that might alter vaccination plans in Latin America.

Categories: Covid-19, Latin America

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