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Crisis Response Journal Crisis Response Journal

Pandemic behaviour in Brazil

Posted on 20th April 2020 at 10:14am

In the current atmosphere of counterinformation, where propaganda and misinformation are rife, it is an extremely complex matter to obtain and assess adequate information in order to gain a true picture of what is really happening. Elton Cunha and Dr Harrysson Luiz da Silva shed some light on the situation in Brazil in their latest update.

In order to make a scientific understanding of any type of phenomenon, including Covid-19, it is necessary to have the objective means for investigation, intervention, evaluation, innovation and management of the entire production process of data derived from the current epidemiological context.

We know that information is a source of power and organisation. Thus, data can be manipulated through certain types of sampling, as well as different types of data representations.

Owing to the lack of an Active Continuity Management Plan for extreme events, is it not currently clear in Brazil:

  • How many people are dying of Covid-19;
  • How many people are not dying from Covid-19;
  • Which recorded death records are from Covid-19;
  • Which death records are not from Covid-19;
  • Which diseases are being reported as Covid-19 owing to lack of tests to identify the cause of death;
  • How many people were infected by Covid-19 and who survived, but whose infection was not notified owing to the lack of tests;
  • What is the difference between confinement and social distance;
  • Whether procedures for social distancing should be maintained in contexts of confinement, even if it is domestic;
  • How many health professionals have been infected and killed by Covid-19; and
  • How many professionals involved in the activities related to Covid-19 who are experiencing – or will be diagnosed with – post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and will not be treated but who will be diagnosed with ‘stress’ so that other functional consequences do not occur.

In this context, different sources of official, non-governmental and science and technology information disseminate different results from the same phenomenon, effectively compromising the public agenda for decision-making, based on the progression of Covid-19 cases. This is down to the different origins of the information sources and the methods used to explain the data on the virus.

As a rule, every phenomenon is always the same, but the variables behave differently in each case. In this perspective, many of the Brazilian actions to combat Covid-19 have been based on the behaviour and epidemiology of the European Covid-19 experience.

However, in Brazil, the behaviour of Covid-19 has been playing out differently:

  • We are in a hot season while Europe was in its cold season, which further compromised the possibility of contagion, unlike Brazil with temperatures around 32° Celsius;
  • The average age of the affected population in Europe is over 60 years old, with underlying conditions such as diabetes and respiratory problems;
  • In Brazil, this profile is not predominant, and young people aged 20 to 30 years have died of Covid-19; and
  • The prophylactic measures adopted in Europe have been applied in Brazil, but with an extreme degree of difficulty owing to a complete lack of service to the entire population, mainly in relation to the availability of tests, respirators for hospital units, production of alcohol gel in quantities sufficient for the entire Brazilian population, as well as masks ergonomically adapted to the Brazilian biotype with guidelines for use and disinfection.

Brazil is still at a nascent stage in this health emergency issue, at least at a governmental level. This means the recognition of its internal standards for decision-making is compromised. Any action in dealing with the Covid-19 outbreak must not only be co-ordinated but directed in order to be effective.

When any phenomenon is politicised and ‘scientificised’, there can be no other result than the reproduction of the same unequal conditions, in the context of an extreme event, as typified by the Covid-19 emergency. Even the simplest thoughts of communities in the most distant parts of our planet have been used to promote institutions, researchers, miraculous remedies, messianisms, without results control – all ending up causing confusion.

It against this backdrop that, thanks to its creative character coupled with a permanent historical context of social inequalities and economic and financial imbalances, the Brazilian population has been finding solutions to daily problems in its own way, in the absence of a response from the State, owing to its limited capacity to support the population. We are not even talking about the Brazilians who have been trapped in airports since January 2020, and in other locations in different countries who have not returned to Brazil, and who are currently without official support.

When all public capacities are not evaluated institutionally with regard to their response capacity, through their support and liaison variables, to make decisions without physical, human and financial resources, any decision taken will be totally counterproductive.

It is at this precise moment that Civil Defence should be the institution par excellence within the National Policy for Protection and Civil Defence, co-ordinating all actions based on the constitution of a management committee. However, Civil Defence is not being listened to and, in some municipalities, does not have any institutional visibility.

This reflects the lack of public understanding of the level of institutionalisation of the Brazilian state vis-à-vis the country’s population and the different segments. By not recognising the powers and competencies of the public bodies provided for in the constitution, populations and segments of population end up following diverse and controversial guidelines from social media and other adverse sources that are taking advantage of this moment. This causes them to doubt both measures taken, as well as measures that still need to be taken owing to lack of data and information, putting them at risk.

All of this reflects a public management problem, and the recognition that the country’s support capacity is not working to protect 100 per cent of its national population, including migrants, both internal and external. 

Once again, the need is reinforced for the implementation of business continuity management plans for different segments in Brazil, so that the State is not caught by surprise meaning that solutions without results are implemented at a time when they will not happen .

On the other hand, Europe, the United States and China have advanced in the speed of processing information using artificial intelligence techniques, more precisely machine learning, which uses massive data from controlled and indexed data sources. This is also reflected in the scientific production of articles with bibliographic reviews and meta-analyses of scientific evidence in various contexts, from operational procedures to tests with drugs such as chloroquine.


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