Over the past two weeks, the daily mortality rate from complications caused by COVID-19 in Brazil has doubled. Brazilian doctors have sounded the alarm: hospitals may soon face a shortage of oxygen and medical supplies, known in the country as “mechanical ventilation kits”. Who is right and wrong in this situation? How Brazil intends to get out of the sanitary crisis?
March is not over yet, nevertheless, during this month Brazil managed to overcome two psychologically important marks of two and three thousand deaths in 24 hours. Since March 1, the Latin American country has broken its own record for daily mortality 6 times. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the “giant” of South America has registered 12.1 million cases of COVID-19 infection, Brazil ranks the second in the world after the United States in terms of the number of coronavirus victims: since the beginning of the pandemic, about 219 thousand infected people have died in the country.
By the way, these days the countries of South America celebrated the year of the pandemic, during this period Brazil has repeatedly found itself in the “top” countries in terms of the dynamics of infection, however, such record indicators as this month have not yet been observed. On the evening of March 17, an increase in infections per day was recorded: 90,303 new cases.
In turn, the head of state Jair Bolsonaro (Port. – Jair Messias Bolsonaro) has long opposed the introduction of strict quarantine restrictions. At the very beginning of the pandemic in Brazil, there was already a split between the federal and regional authorities. In his numerous statements, Bolsonaro called the coronavirus infection “mild flu” and “media hysteria”, and also argued that the economic consequences of isolation could be worse than from a dangerous virus. Regional authorities, on the other hand, advocated tougher restrictions and the introduction of a temporary lockdown.
In addition, specialists from one of the most respected research institutes in the field of virology in Latin American countries, the Brazilian Foundation of Osvaldo Cruz (Port. – Fundação Oswaldo Cruz, Fiocruz) announced “the largest sanitary collapse in the history of the Latin American region”. In 25 of the 27 regions of the country (26 states and one federal district), the fund of intensive care wards intended for the treatment of coronavirus has already been filled by more than 80%. In 18 Brazilian states the figure is over 90%, and in states such as Rondônia and Mato Grosso do Sul it is already over 100%.
On March 22, the Research Institute of the Brazilian Ministry of Health declared the current sanitary situation “the largest health failure in the history of the state”. Complicating the situation is the fact that the COVID-19 virus is transforming, new and more infectious strains are emerging. In particular, the local variety: the “Brazilian” type, which at the end of 2020 was discovered in the city of Manaus. Scientists believe that this species is able to spread twice as fast. At the same time, antibodies produced during the period of infection with the “usual” SARS-CoV-2 are less effective against this mutation of the virus.
Brazil is currently undergoing mass vaccinations and Brazilian citizens can choose between two producers: “AstraZeneca” and “CoronaVac”. A few weeks ago, the government of Bolsonaro ordered 100 million doses of “Pfizer/BioNTech” vaccine, 38 million doses of “Johnson & Johnson” and 13 million doses of “Moderna”. In early March, some media leaked information that the developers of the Russian vaccine drew attention to the report of the US Department, which noted that Washington was trying to persuade Brazil to abandon the “Sputnik V” vaccine. Nevertheless, the Brazilian Foreign Ministry said they did not know about such a “demarche”. As a result, on March 12, Brazil signed a contract with Russia for the supply of “Sputnik V”. According to the most optimistic forecasts of experts, if all of the above vaccines arrive on time in the country, by the end of 2021 it will be possible to vaccinate about 50% of Brazilians.
Jair Bolsonaro still opposes the strengthening of quarantine measures. However, daily emphasizes that in the field of vaccination Brazil is “an example for the whole world”. Why has the Brazilian leader suddenly started campaigning for mass vaccination lately? First, on the eve of the presidential campaign, timed to coincide with the 2022 elections, Bolsonaro began to worry about the loss of popular support amid an ineffective fight against the pandemic. According to recent estimates by the “Datafolha” Institute, the level of mistrust in the head of state has reached a record high: over 54%. An opinion poll conducted by the “Atlas politico” research center suggests that more than half of the Brazilian population is in favor of removing Jair Bolsonaro from the presidency. The start of the impeachment proceedings against the Brazilian leader is supported by 53.6% of respondents.
The second reason for Bolsonaro’s concern lies in the criticism of the Brazilian business community, a significant part of which in 2018 supported his candidacy for the presidency. Against the background of the sanitary crisis, the thesis that vaccination is the most effective solution to the problem and a “game” for the long term becomes more obvious. And, as it turned out, abandoning quarantine restrictions to save the Brazilian economy, on the contrary, turned out to be ineffective. According to official data, the economy contracted by 4.1% in 2020, and there is no reason to hope for improvement this year.
On the surface, there is a third reason why Bolsonaro suddenly changed his mind about the coronavirus. As experts emphasize, the pandemic will remain with us for a long time, and the issue of combating COVID-19 will “become the cornerstone” in the presidential elections in 2022. It seems that the Brazilian leader realized this fact last week, when the Federal Supreme Court judge overturned a corruption sentence against the ex-president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.
Thus, if the Federal Supreme Court upholds this decision and does not re-convict Lula da Silva, then the “left-wing” politician will again be entitled to hold high public office. It is quite obvious that he will fight Jair Bolsonaro for the presidency next year. This turn of events cannot but worry the current Brazilian head of state, who for a long time had no real political opponents. By the way, from recent statements, Lula da Silva intends to build his future campaign precisely on Bolsonaro’s unsuccessful fight against the epidemic.