RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazil is a nation devastated by COVID-19, with 8,697,368 confirmed cases as of Jan. 21.
And its president said there’s nothing he can do about it.
Jair Bolsonaro, who has spread dubious information about the virus, claims the pandemic has been “enhanced by the media” and the country is broken beyond repair.
Alessandra Melo, a dentist in Rio de Janeiro, which was closed for the time required by the government, thinks the president should have “greater control over funds, to face the pandemic.”
Raphaela François, who was working as an au pair in New York when the pandemic began, feels differently. She lived in the city for almost a year and saw a big difference in the way the disease was treated due to Bolsonaro’s comments downplaying its severity.
François said while each American state has its own response, New York made the appropriate restrictions and ordered everyone to stay at home. In the meantime, “people in Brazil had to take crowded trains to go to work, even with the pandemic breaking out.”
In New York, when she went for a walk, she saw people were afraid of any kind of contact, while in Brazil they were creating conspiracy theories.
Some in the United States and Canada, like François, have already received their vaccine, while Brazil dragged its feet and only began distributing the vaccine to citizens on Jan. 23.
The delay was caused by Bolsonaro stalling on approving the vaccine, saying it was made too hastily.
“It still has no security,” he said. “No one can force anyone to take something that you are not sure of the consequences.”
Virna Mac-Cord Catão, who holds a doctorate in Public Policy and Human Training at the State University of Rio de Janeiro and specializes in distance education, said Bolsonaro as head of the state needs to start managing the nation.
“Since the beginning of his candidacy, there was no management project, this was perpetrated at the beginning of his government, and during the pandemic the absence of management was confirmed,” Catão said.
Bolsonaro’s lack of oversight during the pandemic, along with the crisis involving Manaus’ oxygen supply, has caused the president’s popularity to take a hit, sparking protests across the country calling for vaccinations and his impeachment.
Despite the president saying that “the country is broken,” Catão said the private system has continued to generate income, allowing the economy to continue to function.
“A country that is broken means that it does not work, it will not honour its debts, the economy is not circulating at all,” she said. “And even during the pandemic, with the social and work world reinventing itself, money continued to circulate.”
Catão said step one of minimizing the effects of the pandemic would be Bolsonaro acknowledge it exists, saying he needs to “recognizing the risks and the role of science,” and be an example for his people.