The third wave of COVID-19: an overview on Brazil status quo

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Giulia Victoria Ranziny Bastos and Ms. Júlia Marques Preto,  two medical students at the University Ninth of July (UNINOVE), located in the city of Bauru – São Paulo, Brazil. They are affiliated with the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writers and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.


According to anthropologist Merril Singer, syndemics implies the presence of a biosocial complex consisting in the co-presence or the sequence of health conditions, social and environmental factors, promoting or increasing negative effects of these conditions’ interactions. Thus, social inequalities act as cofactors determining syndemics (1). In this sense, it is noteworthy the syndemic character of coronavirus, since social inequality intensifies the health system issue in Brazilian peripheries, which are marked by the lack of drinking water and basic sanitation, associated with agglomerations in public transport, financial insecurity and unhealthy housing since 11.4 million Brazilian people have been living in irregular housing (2). Such conditions hinder the prevention and control of diseases, especially in COVID-19, once the use of masks, hand hygiene and even social isolation are unlikely measures in the absence of basic rights.

As soon as the pandemic reached the slums, accompanied by a financial crisis, wage reduction agreements and layoffs (3), the need for integrated actions and public policies to attending the needs of these residents were revealed. Given that social, economic, and health conditions are determinant to access tests, treatments and, consequently, to the survival of these populations. Under this scenario, the Brazilian government made Emergency Aid available to families in social vulnerability during the pandemic, aiming to mitigate the damage caused by the crisis, for basic needs of these families. However, if the aid guaranteed the minimum dignity, in 2021, with the third wave and the record of daily deaths, the new assistance model no longer covers ⅔ of the vulnerable population. Also its value was reduced to less than half of the initial amount, which made it insufficient, destroying millions of Brazilian citizens. In fact, with the lowest amount of emergency aid in 2021, Brazil will have, after the pandemic, 9.1 million poor people (4).

Despite the positive shreds of evidence of this inclusive social policy, the non-continuity of this program makes life precarious and authorizes the social control of the State through death, a situation named necropolitical by the historian Achille Mbembe (5). In a pandemic state, this unequal distribution to the right to life, aggravates social inequities specially on genders, races and classes previously vulnerable. Furthermore, the pandemic broke out in negative speeches and anti-scientific movements, aggravating its effects in Brazil, either due to the indiscriminate use of inefficient and dangerous medications or due to the growth of the anti-vaccine movement. Therefore, based on evidence from the beginning of the epidemic, the lessons found were not learned, as can be seen in current actions, as lessons to be implemented during the third wave of COVID-19. In a moment when government assistance and support for science should be intensified, in Brazil, negationism, necropolitics and individualism remained strong, resulting in the concentration of one-third of deaths by COVID in the world, even with only 3% of the population worldwide (6).

References

(1)Singer M., Bulled N., Ostrach B., Mendenhall E. Syndemics and the biosocial conception of health. The Lancet. 2017. [cited 2021 jan. 20]. Available from: <https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(17)30003-X/fulltext&gt;

(2)CENSO 2010: 11,4 milhões de brasileiros (6,0%) vivem em aglomerados subnormais. Agencia de notícias IBGE. 2011 [cited 2021 jan. 20]. Avaliable from: <https://agenciadenoticias.ibge.gov.br/agencia-sala-de-imprensa/2013-agencia-de-noticias/releases/14157-asi-censo-2010-114-milhoes-de-brasileiros-60-vivem-em-aglomerados-subnormais>&nbsp;

(3)CONTRIBUIÇÃO emergencial sobre altas rendas permitirá manter oferta de auxílio de R$ 600,00 por quatro meses. Centro de Estudos da Metrópole fflch USP. 2020 [cited 2021 jan. 20]. Available from: <http://centrodametropole.fflch.usp.br/pt-br/noticia/contribuicao-emergencial-sobre-altas-rendas-permitira-manter-oferta-de-auxilio-de-r-60000&gt;

(4)AUXÍLIO emergencial: com benefício reduzido em 2021, Brasil terá 61 milhões na pobreza. BBC News Brasil. [cited 2021 abr. 22]. Available from: <https://www.bbc.com/portuguese/brasil-56843399&gt;

(5)Sousa CR de M. A pandemia da COVID-19 e a necropolítica à brasileira. RD [Internet]. 8º de fevereiro de 2021 [cited 2021 abr.24];13(01):01-27. Available from: <https://periodicos.ufv.br/revistadir/article/view/11391>

(6) UM terço das mortes no mundo: três gráficos fundamentais para entender a pandemia no Brasil. BBC News Brasil.[cited 2021 abr.2]. Available from:  <https://www.bbc.com/portuguese/brasil-56607007&gt;

About the author

Giulia Victoria Ranziny Bastos  is a medical student at the University Ninth of July (UNINOVE), located in the city of Bauru – São Paulo. She is a member of the  Standing Committee on Human Rights and Peace at IFMSA Brazil UNINOVE Bauru.

Júlia Marques Preto  is a medical student at the University Ninth of July (UNINOVE), located in the city of Bauru. She is the local director of the Standing Committee on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights including HIV and AIDS at IFMSA Brazil UNINOVE Bauru.

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