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Traffic data shows Brazil returning to normality amid pandemic

. Nov 28, 2020
Traffic goes up Traffic in São Paulo is returning to normal. Photo: Nagasima/Shutterstock

As we discussed in the latest episode of our Explaining Brazil podcast, a large number of Brazilians seem to have forgotten all about the pandemic. And here, we are not talking about informal workers who have faced no choice but to continue their jobs even during stricter quarantines.

Bars and restaurants in middle-class hotspots are regularly filled with customers, and respect for social distancing norms or mask usage is severely reduced. And recent traffic data further corroborates the feeling that the country returned to normality some time ago — which could help us explain the recent surge in coronavirus deaths and cases.

</p> <p>Looking at <a href="https://github.com/EL-BID/IDB-IDB-Invest-Coronavirus-Impact-Dashboard/tree/master/waze_for_cities">data compiled</a> by navigation app Waze and the Inter-American Development Bank, we can see that overall traffic levels in Brazil are actually <em>above</em> pre-pandemic levels. And it has been that way since mid-July —&nbsp;when deaths were peaking in the country.</p> <div class="flourish-embed flourish-chart" data-src="visualisation/4487539"><script src="https://public.flourish.studio/resources/embed.js"></script></div> <p>Lockdowns and restrictions were implemented in Brazil by mid-March, meaning that Brazilians took 19 weeks before returning to business as usual. At that point, the average of new daily deaths hovered around 1,000 people.</p> <div class="flourish-embed flourish-chart" data-src="visualisation/4489733"><script src="https://public.flourish.studio/resources/embed.js"></script></div> <p>Indeed, traffic figures began to return to normal in the week Brazil hit an average of 46,000 daily cases — the peak of the pandemic so far in the country.</p> <h2>Traffic remains slower in big urban centers</h2> <p>The data from <a href="https://brazilian.report/society/2020/03/31/traffic-goes-down-delivery-goes-up-in-covid-19-sao-paulo/">IDB and Waze</a> also goes into detail for 24 Brazilian metropolitan areas&nbsp;— where around 80 million people live. It is interesting to observe that while traffic data has returned to levels closer to where they were before the pandemic, they remain below March 2 levels.</p> <p>These areas, of course, are home to people with higher-paying jobs, thus are more likely to be able to work remotely. Meanwhile, in the rest of the country, that luxury is rarer, which goes some way toward explaining how Brazil&#8217;s coronavirus epidemic spread away from big cities and into the country&#8217;s interior.</p> <div class="flourish-embed flourish-chart" data-src="visualisation/4487748"><script src="https://public.flourish.studio/resources/embed.js"></script></div> <p>As a potential second coronavirus wave approaches Brazil, city and state governments all over the country will be faced with tough decisions over whether to reinstate strict social isolation measures. Now that Brazilians are already returning to their normal lives, convincing people to isolate once more will be an uphill struggle.

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