A resident from Brazil discusses COVID (level B2)

How do you feel the country you are residing in handled COVID?
I feel that COVID came up in a terrible moment for the country because, even before the pandemic, we were coping with political and economic problems. Ideological views surpassed rational decisions, allowing fake news to spread out of control.
Since the beginning of the outbreak, the federal government and some entrepreneurs have said that people should choose between health or economy. They said it would kill 5,000 people in the worst scenario, but now that the death toll reaches 190,000 people and the unemployment is historically high, it’s clear that it was a false dichotomy. It’s impossible to sustain the economy when people are afraid of dying. Other countries are starting to vaccinate the population while we don’t know when it will begin here. We don’t have a clear strategy and, to make it worse, the president says that vaccines are risky; this is disappointing because Brazil used to have a very successful vaccination program, which has been built in the last few decades, that could have been used now.

What reason does the president give for suggesting that the vaccine won’t be effective?
He doesn’t give any reason. He only says that it can be dangerous, especially the vaccine produced in China. He is a disciple of Donald Trump, and like him, Bolsonaro doesn’t care if what he says is true or not.
He is against the vaccine, social distancing, masks, etc. The only way people like him thrive (hiding incapacity and corruption) is in chaos and disorder. That’s why they create imaginary enemies and conspiracy theories.

What did you think they did well/what do you think they did badly?
In some states, governors decreed early lockdowns. It was good to gain some time to prepare hospitals and buy medical equipment. In Brazil, free health care is a citizen’s right, and for this reason, free medical services are available in every city. With an enormous territory, this was vital to deal with the disease. Another good thing was the financial support for low-income families. Without it, many people wouldn’t have been able to buy food for surviving. Though, there were many problems in coordinating it as the federal government didn’t recognize the size of the problem. The government touted conspiracy theories concerning the COVID pandemic. For instance, the president insisted on recommending the use of chloroquine, even without scientific evidence of its benefits. Further, he refuses to wear masks and to make social distancing.

You say that people are expected to wear masks in public, is that just public spaces which are indoors or outdoor spaces as well? If it is outdoors, are there ‘zones’ in which people wear masks? Also, what is the minimum age for compulsory mask-wearing?
Every city has its own laws. In general, people have to wear masks at all public spaces, public transportation, all commercial, industrial or service-related places, and in common areas of residential or commercial condominiums. There aren’t zones. The rules must be applied in all areas.
There is no minimum age for wearing a mask. Some people are not required to wear masks in special cases, such as disabilities or other health problems.

What were the rules and regulations?
The rules and regulations were different in every state and city, but in general, they were: wear masks in public, reduce the capacity of commerce, and close public spaces like parks. Usually, the rules can change to be more severe depending on the speed of transmission and the number of available intensive care units.

How well do you think that the citizens/authorities complied with the regulations?
Most citizens respected the regulations at the start, but after months of restrictions, the number of people who aren’t following them is increasing every day. Many people can not follow the rules because they live in terrible sanitary conditions or because they have to work in packed places. Also, public transportation was a big problem with buses and trains overcrowded. The main authority, the president, never respected the regulations and, on the contrary, encouraged the population to disobey the rules. He said that it was a “little flu,” and when he was asked about thousands of deaths, he said: “what can I do? I’m not a gravedigger”.

What financial compensation was there for people impacted by COVID?
Unemployed people living in low-income families, initially received a monthly amount of R$ 600 (this value was doubled for single mothers) until August and R$ 300 after that. More than 60 million people received this financial assistance, which is planned to end in December.
Furthermore, the companies were offered credit by the government so they could keep the employees on instead of firing them (here salaries are monthly-based and can’t be reduced).

Any stories about your experience/or those close to you about living through COVID?
Living through COVID has been extremely challenging for families with kids because schools were closed and classes are given online. Many families and schools didn’t have good computers or internet connections. Teachers and parents weren’t prepared to teach kids using tools like zoom, google meetings, etc. I have two children, and their classes were at the same time that I was working remotely too. We all had to adapt to do our new activities, sharing the same space. It was hard for them to learn in this new environment and be distant from their classmates and teachers.

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