Brazil’s health system will collapse by April: Health minister

Brazil declares state of emergency, freeing up funds for the federal government to fight a coronavirus crisis

Members of the Brazilian government initially appeared unworried by the virus, but have since changed their stance [Nelson Almeida/AFP]

Brazil’s health system will enter a state of collapse by the end of April, the country’s health minister said on Friday, with coronavirus cases hitting a plateau in July and hopefully falling quickly in September.

Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta said that Sao Paulo is at the start of the coronavirus whirlwind, and cases should jump there next week. 

Brazil has become one of the centres of South America’s coronavirus crisis. The country has 691 confirmed cases of coronavirus and seven deaths as of March 20, according to local media. 

Hospital shortages

Brazil declared a state of emergency on Friday, freeing up funds for the federal government to fight a coronavirus crisis that has hurt the popularity of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro’s government.

The Senate approved a measure letting the government waive fiscal targets this year, with senators voting remotely after two of them tested positive for the virus that causes the COVID-19 respiratory disease.

Bolsonaro is facing criticism as he seeks to balance major public health concerns with protecting Brazil’s long-ailing economy. The pandemic poses serious political risks for the populist, who initially labelled it a “fantasy”.

In comments to journalists on Friday, he slammed state governors for taking “extreme measures” that hurt the economy.

Sao Paulo state Governor Joao Doria said a statewide public emergency would go into force on Saturday, aimed at allowing the government to better fight the virus. All parks and non-essential public services will closed until the end of April.

Doria defended the move and criticised Bolsonaro.

“We’re doing what he’s not doing,” Doria said. “And when he does do it, he does it wrong.”

Approval of Bolsonaro’s government fell to a record low this week, according to XP Investimentos poll released on Friday. Just 30 percent of those surveyed rated his administration “good” or “great”, compared with 36 percent calling it “bad” or “awful”.

A record-high 17 percent said Bolsonaro’s government is to blame for the current economic situation, as blame attached to the previous three administrations slowly evaporates, the poll showed.

Many Brazilians have been drumming pots and pans in their homes nightly in a traditional protest against Bolsonaro, who ignored medical advice to meet crowds of supporters on Sunday despite having several aides diagnosed with virus.

Bolsonaro’s press secretary Fabio Wajngarten tested positive for the virus, as well as several others who were part off a delegation to the United States earlier this month.  

Wajngarten was photographed with US President Donald Trump at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. Trump initially refused the coronavirus test, but has since tested negative, according to White House physicians. Bolsonaro has also said he tested negative. 

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies