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Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Brazil - statistics & facts

On March 11, 2020, when the World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus a pandemic, Brazil was still a week away from reporting its first death due to COVID-19. Nevertheless, the largest nation in Latin America soon claimed global attention, as the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in the country grew exponentially, reaching the third and second highest figures worldwide, respectively, only behind the U.S. and India. One year after the first case was reported – on February 26, 2020 – Brazil had surpassed the threshold of ten million cases and 250,000 deaths.

Economic recovery put to a halt

The COVID-19 pandemic has, unsurprisingly, also affected Brazil’s economy and projections of growth. The South American powerhouse was showing the first signs of recovery, after a severe economic crisis which hit the country in 2014. Since 2017, its gross domestic product (GDP) had been continuously increasing, and until February 28, 2020, a growth of 2.3 percent was projected for the upcoming year. Ten months later, a GDP decrease of 4.5 percent was forecast. In parallel, the unemployment rate in Brazil soared throughout the year, standing at 14.3 percent as of October.

Additional pressure on a strained health system

As in other nations across the globe, the coronavirus represents a major challenge to the overall health system in Brazil. The country’s health security index indicates a relatively high capacity to promptly address an epidemic. Yet, in March 2020, more than one third of Brazilians believed the country was not prepared to fight the COVID-19 outbreak. In fact, there were approximately 6.7 thousand hospitals in Brazil in 2019, 200 less than in 2010. Meanwhile, the rate of hospital beds in the country consistently decreased over the past decade. The COVID-19 pandemic adds extra pressure on a society that had already been struggling to provide appropriate healthcare for its residents.

Political disputes amidst the pandemic

The Brazilian government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, under the administration of Jair Bolsonaro, has caused a political crisis resulting from a divide on how to handle the spread of the disease. Already in March, Brazil’s Ministry of Health declared that each state should devise guidelines to fight the virus and strongly recommended social distancing and self-isolation. Meanwhile, the president dismissed the severity of the pandemic, and encouraged people to “go back to normality”. Such contrast might explain why nearly half of Brazilians surveyed disapproved of how Bolsonaro has addressed the coronavirus outbreak, whereas roughly one third disapproved the Ministry’s response to the matter. Regardless of political allegiance, as the number of COVID-19 deaths in Brazil surpassed the 100 thousand mark in early August, the largest share of Brazilians agreed that not enough was done to prevent it.



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