On the Ground News from Brazil, with update

Video and writing by Jean Vilbert,  a Judge, Writer and Professor in São Paulo, Brazil.
Coronavirus is coming to the Tropics. What to do now?

As coronavirus advances, Brazilians fear a catastrophe, wondering whether the country will be able to stop such a contagious virus when it hits hundreds of thousands who live in densely packed slums. To make matters worse, the public healthcare system, which is theoretically a “Medicare for all” (according to the Constitution), actually is often unable to provide the most basic health services to the citizens in normal conditions, let alone in a chaotic scenario. Brazilians hope for the best but must be prepared (have a plan) for the worst.

Perhaps the country could face this overwhelming challenge by organizing a strong political and social cooperation. However, citizens are witnessing a tug of war between polarized social groups and rival politicians, including the president and governors. Mr. Bolsonaro has been advocating for a risk-based strategy, which would focus on protecting the elderly and imposing more lenient measures on everyone else. Some governors, in their turn, believe they need to flatten the curve and therefore buy time for the healthcare system.

As a result, public offices, schools, most restaurants are closed. But you can still find a lot of people on the streets, gathering in small business and public markets. Up to a certain point, it is understandable. To the best of our knowledge, social distancing is the most effective measure to curb the spread of the virus. On the other hand, although it may seem absurd to consider the economy amidst a health crisis, Brazilians cannot afford not to. Lasting confinement will hit the poor hard, causing thousands of profitable business to close, especially the small ones. And even though money may appear to be a minor inconvenience in the face of a pandemic that is threatening lives, employment is a matter of life and death in a developing country like Brazil, where millions of people count on their work on a daily basis to survive.

Brazil is living through a dilemma.


Since sending us the first video, Jean has sent another to update us further on the state of the virus in Brazil.