Echos from Brazil

The Covid-19 pandemic has required efforts worldwide to contain the increase in the number of cases and death. In Brazil, it has not been different. The largest country from South America has, until March 19, 647 cases, one death and some confirmed cases of local transmission. The scenario is concerning and it is expected a high increase in total deaths and cases by next week. Compared to the most affected country so far, Italy, Brazil largely has more (291 cases) in the 20th day after the first case confirmed than Italy (only 3 cases).

Since then, the number of cases and death has increased. People were asked to stay home and take protective measures. Local businesses were shut down at the first moment due to good sense from its owners. Angelo Tolentino is one of them. He has a pizza place in Manaus, in the north of the country. His sales in the restaurant since the outbreak have dropped considerably, while deliveries have increased. But he says even though he keeps running his business, he worries about a major background. “I know some local business owners that are desperate because they cannot survive after 15 days being closed. The economic scenario was already hard before the virus outbreak, some of them have loans to pay and prices at supermarkets have risen”. He says his concerns about sanitizing and washing hands and surfaces have increased, and is done repeatedly both in his business and at home.

Manaus, Brazil. | Photo by Neil Palmer

In the federal capital, Brasilia, the number of cases has increased since last week. As a result, restaurants, cinemas and gyms are closed. Only some establishments are working, such as supermarkets, gas stations and drugstores. Natasha Omena works for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees office in Brasilia. She has been working since Monday from home. Besides the virus, shortage of items is affecting the situation in refugee camps in Brasilia, as a result of the collapsing of supply distribution and prices rising. Masks, gloves and hand sanitizer, are lacking, not only for the refugees, but in the whole city. But vulnerable, like refugees who live in camps, are even more delicate, she says.

People in Brazil are doing the best to fight the pandemic. The collapse of the public health system due to a high number of infections is one of the major concerns for the next few weeks. Large parts of the cities in the country have no access to water regularly and have poor sanitary conditions. Mental health of a population in quarantine is also serious. In this matter, Tolentino says he has an important role. “Rather than profit, which I won’t have at this moment, my role is to deliver some joy to people at home. A good pizza can help people to forget, at least for a moment, the hard situation we are facing now.

Felipe Câmara is a Vancouver-based Brazilian environmentalist

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