In Europe, the corona situation is largely easing, South America is becoming a hotspot. This is also due to the new infections in Brazil: President Bolsonaro’s risky course has fatal consequences.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, I have said that I regret the deaths, but that we have to live.” This is how Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro recently justified his decision to host the South American “Copa América” football tournament in Brazil. And of all places in the country that published extremely worrying figures over the weekend.
More than 500,000 people have now died of Covid-19 in the state with its well over 210 million inhabitants. Only the USA has more fatalities to mourn with more than 600,000 corona deaths.
Particularly worrying: 250,000 deaths were reported in Brazil in the first eleven months of the pandemic – the same number has now been recorded in the country within four months. Nevertheless, a large football tournament is now being held there. The intermediate result so far: 53 reported corona cases. It is foreseeable that there will be even more before the final on July 10th.
Bolsonaro has played down the virus since the beginning of the pandemic
Why is Bolsonaro still holding on to it? Since the beginning of the pandemic, the right-wing president’s government has played down the virus. She resisted tough measures to combat the crisis – the economic consequences are too significant. Corona is less bad than the consequences of a lockdown, so the argument.
Finally, Bolsonaro also questioned the sense of vaccinations. Getting infected was more effective protection, he claimed. He himself had been infected last summer. Still, he downplayed the virus: “I think that unfortunately almost all of you will one day be infected. What are you afraid of?”
Jair Bolsonaro: The Brazilian president rejects strict corona measures. (Source: imago images)
Anger in the population is increasing
However, there is now growing anger towards the head of government in Brazil. Thousands of people took to the streets at the weekend to demonstrate against Bolsonaro’s corona policy. In the capital Brasília as well as in numerous provincial capitals, the citizens demanded more vaccinations, economic support in the crisis – and his resignation. “His position on Covid and his denials are absurd. He has given up reality and common sense,” said a protester, according to a media report.
Protests against Bolsonaro: Many Brazilians are calling for the president to resign. (Source: imago images)
The facts speak for themselves: there are currently around 80,000 new infections every day, and a total of almost 18 million people in the South American country have already become infected – at least according to official information. The number of unreported cases is likely to be much higher.
“The plan seems to have been to achieve a natural contamination, so the so-called herd immunity,” says the professor of international relations at the FGV University in São Paulo, Oliver Stuenkel, t-online. This also explains why Bolsonaro has always refused any attempts to enforce distance rules and mask requirements. “And he also systematically fought against the scientists who spoke about this topic. He also promoted and encouraged conspiracy theories,” says Stuenkel.
He threatened governors who wanted to enforce protective measures with the use of the military. Bolsonaro’s policies cost human lives every day. In order to reduce the number of cases, a different type of communication must take place, according to the Brazil expert. “Unfortunately, that is very unlikely.”
Vaccinations need to go faster
An effective alternative? A successful vaccination campaign. But it stalls. Almost 30 percent of Brazilians have received their first dose of vaccine so far, and around eleven percent are fully vaccinated. Many see the reason for the rather low quotas in the poor planning of the government. A parliamentary committee of inquiry is currently examining Bolsonaro’s crisis management. The president is accused of rejecting an offer from Pfizer to supply over 70 million vaccine doses last year. Bolsonaro claims that he has done everything in his power to buy vaccines. The head of government only placed an order with Pfizer in March 2021.
According to insiders, he now finally wants to accelerate the vaccination program: he asked Pfizer whether the delivery scheduled for the fourth quarter could be brought forward to June. Perhaps not entirely without ulterior motives: the Biontech / Pfizer vaccine enjoys greater trust among the population than the Astrazeneca and Sinovac products. So far, however, it is the latter two vaccines that are mainly used in Brazil. Only four percent of the inoculated doses come from Pfizer.
Bolsonaro didn’t want to buy Chinese vaccine
That poses a problem: many Brazilians reject Astrazeneca and Sinovac. This is also due to the fact that Bolsonaro is increasing distrust among the population. “It is not that uncommon to speak to people who are very afraid of the vaccination because of the information from the government,” says expert Stuenkel.
At the beginning of the vaccination campaign, the Brazilian president initially refused to buy the Sinovac vaccine from the Chinese company Coronavac. It was only when no other options were available that Bolsonaro signed the contract – but he publicly mocked the vaccine.
The microbiologist Natalia Pasternak, who repeatedly criticizes Bolsonaro’s corona strategy publicly, demanded in a media report: “It is the government’s job to tell people that they shouldn’t be picky. d.Red.) are all effective and good. ” Even patients who were hospitalized with severe Covid symptoms sometimes did not believe that their illness had anything to do with Covid-19, says Brazil expert Stuenkel. “Those who doubt the pandemic are everywhere, but of course in Brazil they have a mouthpiece through the president and his advisors.” That makes it easier to spread the wrong facts.
Full hospitals in Brazil: In the South American country, the number of infections has skyrocketed. (Source: imago images)
The establishment of the British-Swedish vaccine Astrazeneca also failed in part because side effects such as thrombosis made headlines. The citizens were thus unsettled, says Stuenkel: “There are many Brazilians who do not want a vaccination at all or who only get the first dose, which of course does not provide sufficient protection.” The government did not give the all-clear in this regard, as was the case in European countries.
More people will die
Another concern is growing: even more mutants, which in case of doubt are more infectious than the wild type and can have a significant impact on the global infection rate. In November of last year, the so-called gamma variant P.1 first appeared in Brazil. It is considered to be far more contagious than the wild type and is now widespread.
So it is important to prevent the emergence of new variants – but how? In addition to the vaccinations, further steps are required: “Stricter distancing measures should actually take place now and we should also proceed much more rigorously when it comes to accumulations,” says expert Stuenkel, also with a view to the “Copa” football tournament. In addition, more should be tested, demands the Brazilian expert Pasternak, according to a media report.
Otherwise, Stuenkel dares a gloomy forecast: “We will continue to see very, very high case numbers. Most of the experts assume that the number of cases will now rise again – and also the number of deaths. The pandemic in Brazil is much worse in 2021 than 2020, so we’re going to overtake the United States’ death toll. South America is the epicenter of the pandemic. “