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Case Study

Covid-19 Pandemic Case Study: Brazil

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The Covid-19 pandemic in Brazil comes in the wake of the political polarisation that was accentuated in the 20141 presidential elections and the scientific denialism used by the current government of President Jair Bolsonaro. Experts estimate that the way the president handles the most serious health crisis in recent decades is a reflection of this scenario.

‘The denial of science is a problem that already existed in this government with the denial of global warming, the denial of deforestation in the Amazon, which led to the resignation of the president of the National Institute for Space Research (INPE),2 Ricardo Galvão. With the pandemic, it got worse. Now added to it is the denialism of social isolation, the use of masks and the spread of false news about miraculous medicines’, warns a doctor in microbiology and president of the Brazilian Institute of Science, Natalia Pasternak.

The risk of the collapse of the health system and the strong economic recession caused by the pandemic aggravated political polarisation and, with it, the dispute for narratives. ‘For some people, there is no epidemiological risk and for others there is an absurd epidemiological risk. This gives a bad feeling’, explains a labor judge in São Roque (Sao Paulo) and director of the National Association of Labor Justice Magistrates (ANAMATRA), Marcus Barberino.

For Barberino, with the lack of national coordination during the pandemic, the feeling of lack of belonging of Brazilians to their social group grew. This factor also interfered in the adherence to health rules, which, consequently, contributed to the increased vulnerability of Brazilian society to the disease. ‘It is very common for you to find people complaining about each other. Claiming that the others are not wearing a mask and are not doing anything. So, you look around and see people wearing masks. Even those who are concerned about others can’t come around with belonging. It is not for nothing that Brazil has one of the highest mortality rates due to Covid-19’, he argues.

According to information from Johns Hopkins University as of 12 November, Brazil is the country with the third-highest number of people infected with Covid-19, surpassing the mark of five million cases, behind only India and the United States. Regarding the total number of deaths, Brazil occupies second place, accounting for 163,368 deaths, with only the United States ahead.

Product details
Date of Publication
December 2020
Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung Washington, DC and Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung European Union
Number of Pages
Language of publication
Table of contents

1. The Pandemic Opens Wide Problems 5

1.1. Pandemic and Informality 6

1.2. Work Overload and Violence Mark the Confinement of Brazilian Women 7

1.3. Covid-19 and the Vulnerability of Indigenous Peoples and Their Traditional Territories 8

1.4. The Pandemic and the Black Population 10

2. Brazil’s Lack of Preparation for Facing the Pandemic and the Role of SUS 11

2.1. The Role of the Unified Health System (SUS) in Relation to Covid-19 11

2.2. Little Testing, Little Covid-19 Tracking 13

3. The New Normal and Its Challenges 14

3.1. Economic and Social Impacts 14

3.2. The Effects of the Pandemic in Education 15

3.3. The Race for the Vaccine 15

4. Political Effects of the Pandemic 17

5. Multilateral Cooperation and International Partner Organisations 18

6. Expectations for Co-operation with the United States and Europe 19

7. References 20