In this update on the current situation in Brazil, Dr Harrysson Luiz Da Silva and Elton Cunha share their views of how political and economic pressures are shaping their government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
In view of the progressive increase in the number of people infected by Covid-19 and the rise in the death toll, all sectors – public, private, third sector, science, technology and innovation, media, social networks and strategic (armed forces) – as well as the departments dealing with governmental information, are all under different pressures.
On the one hand, there is the requirement for quarantine and distancing to avoid contagion so as not to compromise the support capacity of Brazilian states. On the other hand, there is pressure to ease quarantine and social distancing, owing to economic and employment losses, as well as income and an ongoing socioeconomic crisis.
The National Policy for Protection and Civil Defence in Brazil dates from 2012 and a good part of it has not yet been implemented in the states and municipalities. This is compromising integrated and co-ordinated management action of an extreme event, as is the case with Covid-19.
The Brazilian population is characterised by different beliefs and principles. One section of the population supports its principles with religious dogmas. In general, this section believes that God is in charge of everything and therefore it is not necessary to take the recommended precautions against Covid-19.
Another part of the population that is guided by more technical, scientific and inspection methodology, is attentive to the dangers and special care needs, such as quarantine, isolation and the use of masks and sanitising products.
The private sector has been putting heavy pressure on the federal government to approve measures, together with the national congress, to lay off workers at no cost to them and to reduce their wages by 20 to 50 per cent. These measures are titled the ‘Provisional Measure 936/2020’ and ‘Green-Yellow Programme’.
In this context, none of the institutions nor the general public have undergone any training process on how they should behave in an extreme event. This can be verified by the very low number – almost zero – of security councils (CONSEGs) in Brazilian municipalities that do not even exist, and even when they do, they are not functioning.
Because there is no culture of risk and disaster management, nor of understanding disasters, whether natural or biological – as is the case with Covid-19 – a large part of the population is still confused as to the care and procedures to be adopted in the light of Covid-19 in order to avoid contagion. The effects are also evident in the lack of machines, equipment and hospital medical treatments, as well as products for use by the population in general, such as alcohol gel and masks.
Owing to a lack of national co-ordination, all these pressures have created different contexts in decision-making processes at state and municipal levels, which in most cases, are not supported either by research or official data.
Thus, the executive, legislative and judicial branches sometimes end up making different decisions and disintegrating actions regarding protection against Covid-19. This leads to different institutions, making different decisions regarding the duration of lockdown and distancing. This reaffirms contrary actions in relation to both quarantine and to isolation, which are still not clear to the population in general.
The National Civil Defence should, in these cases, activate the entire structure of the National Civil Protection and Defence Policy, so that all problems resulting from a lack of co-ordination can be resolved, creating a set of common guidelines for the national, state and municipal scales.
In turn, the technical criteria have been underestimated in the same way that Covid-19 cases are being under-reported throughout Brazil. This makes it difficult to assess objectively the rate of Covid-19 infection.
Neither the National Confederation of Industry (CNI), nor the Micro and Small Business Support Service in Brazil have business continuity management plans in the context of extreme events. Universities, research centres and other institutions are in a similar position.
Therefore, in a situation that demands immediate responses, there is no way to produce knowledge quickly without scientific validation. And nor can economic and financial solutions be found without planning and investment into a proposal that outlines actions for the short, medium and long terms, as seen in China and other countries that work on modelling strategic scenarios.
So, without national rules, common technical methods, an intense activity of information, counter-information, advertising, counter-advertising and adverse advertising, it can be inferred that we are not only in a biological war, but also in an informational war that uses measures of social isolation and distancing in a context of permanent flexibility.
It is hoped that data and readings recorded at this time will help the Brazilian states to implement national medium and long term continuity plans so that they are prepared for all situations after Covid-19.