Infected, symptomatic employees show up for work at Brazil’s Health Ministry

Box of rapid Covid tests at the Brazilian Health Ministry. Photo: Myke Sena/MS
Box of rapid Covid tests at the Brazilian Health Ministry. Photo: Myke Sena/MS

The Brazilian Health Ministry is experiencing a coronavirus outbreak within its headquarters, civil servants tell The Brazilian Report. Supervisors have told infected workers that they should continue showing up for work, even those with flu-like symptoms.

“Use a face mask and keep socially distanced. If you feel you can work, then you can go to the office,” one manager told a female employee, who reported having a sore throat and intense headaches — two symptoms common in patients who contract the Omicron variant. The same employee says that two of her coworkers showed up to work despite having a cough and only tested themselves after a full day in the office. Both tested positive.

“The ministry does not pay for us to take private tests and has not given any guidance on how to proceed in case of a suspected infection,” she tells The Brazilian Report. “It’s every person for themselves.” The Health Ministry has not responded to a query for information.

This is not the first time the government has faced a spike in cases within its facilities. At the beginning of the pandemic, employees complained about being pressured into not wearing face masks. By July 2020, many government buildings were considered Covid hotbeds.

Omicron spread

The seven-day average of new daily coronavirus cases in Brazil ballooned from 3,156 on Christmas to 33,146 on January 9 — on par with July 2021 levels. A mathematical model by the University of Washington estimates that Brazil could reach 1.3 million new daily cases by next month — which would be four times more than the worst peaks of the pandemic in Brazil.

On Monday, the Health Ministry began a push to have self-testing kits cleared for use in Brazil. Self-testing is not allowed in Brazil for any infectious disease which must be reported to authorities.