For months, President Jair Bolsonaro has insisted the coronavirus is not a serious threat. Beyond decreeing a nationwide state of calamity in mid-March, his government has left 209 million Brazilians largely without federal help during the pandemic. Brazil has the most confirmed Covid-19 cases in Latin America: 254,220 infections and 16,792 deaths as of May 18. Nevertheless, Mr. Bolsonaro continues shaking hands, hugging supporters, urging the country to reopen.
And he has pushed out two Health Ministers for promoting social distancing.
Some state governors are defying the right-wing president’s calls to restart the economy, and Congress recently approved a monthly cash payment of BRL 600 (USD 104) to help 54 million newly unemployed workers — less than the national minimum wage of BRL 1,045. Since other federal aid does not appear to be forthcoming, neighborhood associations, churches, community groups, and unions are stepping in to support struggling Brazilians.