To relax, or not to relax, that is the question. Just like other countries, Brazil has been dealing with the possibility of loosening its quarantine measures, three months after the first Covid-19 case was recorded. Brazil, however, is not like other countries. Infection curves continue to rise and with more than 25,000 deaths and 400,000 confirmed cases, Brazil is second to only the U.S. in absolute coronavirus numbers.
Brazil is in hot water. Besides being responsible for making South America the new global epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, it has also caused neighboring countries to close their borders and keep potentially infected Brazilians out. In early May, Brazilians were responsible for almost 90 percent of the new Covid-19 cases in Paraguay, for example.
Paraguay is a good example to look to when discussing the end of quarantine. Without a single person in ICU by April 29, the country managed to avoid a Covid-19 spurt in May and began deploying what it calls “intelligent quarantine.” On May 25, with successful results, they started phase two, increasing the risk group age from 60 to 65 and reopening some stores.
But Brazil is not Paraguay, yet President Jair Bolsonaro thinks we are. The leader has been an adamant defender of what he calls “vertical social isolation,” that is, movement restrictions only being applied to so-called high-risk populations, such as senior citizens, people with pre-existing conditions, or autoimmune problems.
To back up his argument, however, Mr. Bolsonaro has always mentioned Sweden as a prime example of how a country can negotiate its way through the Covid-19 crisis without imposing lockdowns. What Mr. Bolsonaro fails to mention is that Sweden has had much more Covid-19 cases per 1 million people when compared to neighboring countries, which adopted early lockdowns.
In any case, Brazil is not Sweden. And, of course, it is far from being Paraguay, which has the lowest number of deaths and one of the smallest mortality rates. Now, the government of São Paulo state will begin the gradual reopening of Brazil’s biggest economy from June 1.
What comes next?