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Bolsonaro’s Health Ministry takes Brazil back to the 1970s

The government's handling of the pandemic has been reminiscent of what the military regime did during a meningitis epidemic in the 1970s

hospital emilio ribas meningitis
In the 1970s, Emilio Ribas was the only hospital dealing with meningitis. Photo: GOVESP

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: a country blindsided by an epidemic; a reactionary leader who chooses not to take it seriously; an overburdened healthcare system scrambling to deal with an unexpected surge of patients, and a government that deliberately works to hide information from people, leading to a tremendously high number of avoidable deaths. We could easily be talking about how the Jair Bolsonaro administration has handled Brazil’s coronavirus crisis. Instead, this is a story from the 1970s, when the country’s military dictatorship tried to cover up a meningitis epidemic at all costs.

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