Not only in Brazil, but in all of South America, the number of corona cases is rising again. While the region was important for vaccine research, people now have to wait for the vaccinations.
By Anne Herrberg, ARD Studio Buenos Aires
Jair Bolsonaro jumps from a boat into the water, paws, accompanied by bodyguards, to the overcrowded Praia Grande beach in Sao Paulo, where he takes a bath in the crowd. “Mito” shouted his fans, myth, of course everyone without a face mask, close together, the corona restrictions of the state are being ignored. The president personally shows it, Bolsonaro has always rejected strict measures. The curve points steeply upwards again. Brazil has just passed the 200,000 corona death mark. Even in the particularly hard hit Amazon metropolis of Manaus, where a kind of herd immunity was suspected a few months ago, the number of cases has exploded again.
A two-week lockdown has now been imposed. Market woman Maria Tereza is desperate: “If everyone carefully put on their mouthguards and adhered to the rules, it wouldn’t have been necessary, but nobody would stick to them,” she complains. Now everything is tight here, that puts so many people in need because they cannot work.
Case numbers are increasing across South America
It’s not just Brazil. In all of South America, anyway the hardest hit region in the world, the number of cases is rising again. Especially with the younger ones. A few months ago it looked as if the curve was flat. Restrictions have been relaxed and schools reopened.
It’s summer in the southern hemisphere. Many behave as if everything was already over, says the Argentine infectiologist Carlota Russ: “We are not experiencing a second wave, but a flare-up of the first.” After the long lockdown, many are tired. Especially the younger ones wanted to finally live again, rules are no longer being observed, she says, referring to the state funeral of Maradona with tens of thousands of people. There are many illegal parties and the beaches are full. “It’s all difficult to control. The developments are very worrying.”
Argentina has now imposed a night curfew, partial lockdowns apply in Chile, Uruguay has closed the borders completely and in Peru the intensive care units are again at their limit. But hardly any country can afford to impose another hard lockdown, either economically or politically.
First experimental laboratory in the world – now waiting for the vaccine
Hope now turns to the vaccines. South America was one of the hotspots for vaccination studies, but is now in danger of falling behind in terms of distribution – not just because of logistical challenges, says Peruvian intensive care doctor Jesus Valverde. He complains that there is discrimination: “The rich countries have already stocked up on enough vaccine, for poorer countries negotiations with the companies are difficult and expensive.” In all discourses of solidarity, it is an economic question who comes first.
Only Argentina, with Sputnik V, and Chile, with the vaccine from BioNTech and Pfizer, have started vaccinating at least health workers. In Brazil, mass immunization has so far failed due to political conflicts over the vaccine. Now the Bolsonaro government seems to give in. She said she wanted to use the Chinese CoronaVac vaccine while AstraZeneca’s vaccine is delayed.
Valuable time has been wasted, criticizes the microbiologist Natalia Pasternak. Brazil would have had the best conditions to be the first country in South America to vaccinate, says Pasternak: “We have a network of vaccination stations, cold chains, experience. But through its mismanagement and lack of will, our government has managed to gamble away this advantage.”
Bolsonaro himself has already announced that he does not want to be vaccinated – especially not with the Chinese vaccination. And, according to a survey by the renowned Datafolha Institute, every fourth Brazilian sees it too.