How the coronavirus is heading to Brazil’s countryside

How the coronavirus is heading to Brazil's countryside
The city of Poços de Caldas. Photo: Gil Leonardi/Imprensa MG

Caving to the demands of retailers, local administrations in several cities are on the cusp of reopening commercial activities. The list of countryside municipalities includes Salvador (Bahia), Vitória (Espírito Santo), Campinas (São Paulo), Aparecida de Goiânia (Goiás), Betim and Poços de Caldas (Minas Gerais). In the city of São Paulo, Mayor Bruno Covas is against the move, even if that jeopardizes his re-election bid in October — or later, if the election is postponed.

At first, 100 percent of Covid-19 cases in Brazil were concentrated in one single state capital, São Paulo. However, one-third of all registered cases are now outside of capitals, as well as 40 percent of deaths. That information, however, comes with a caveat: a large portion of these cases and deaths come in municipalities on the outskirts of major urban centers.

Blumenau, a case study

Below is a chart of Covid-19 cases in Blumenau, highlighting its two attempts to reopen the local economy. Blumenau is the countryside city in South Brazil where last week we saw a crowd of families, senior citizens, and children, all wearing face masks, scuttling into a shopping mall to the sound of a saxophone cover of “Have You Ever Seen The Rain?” 

Of course, we can’t be certain that the number of infections has spiked because of the reopening of commerce. Underreporting is massive, and any increase in testing pushes the curve up. Perhaps reopening commerce allowed more people to seek tests.

But the lack of any scientific conclusion is precisely why it seems too soon to reopen the country.