Viewpoints on Energy, Geopolitics, and Civilization
Pandemic Blackout Won't Fool Anyone
But it will kill more Brazilians by obscuring vital health data.
From Argentina's lockdown to Nicaragua's devil-may-care, governments across Latin American have experimented with a range of strategies before the raging coronavirus pandemic. Brazil has added something new to the policymaker's black bag: blindfolds.
Clearly something had to be done. Last week, Brazil leapfrogged most of the world's worst-hit nations and now trails only the U.S. in active cases , overtaking France and the United Kingdom to log the third highest death toll from Covid-19. Those numbers have made Latin America's largest country an international scandal, drawn a U.S. travel ban from President Donald Trump and sent protesters to the streets .
But wait. President Jair Bolsonaro has just the medicine. Rather than subject his country to more ridicule amid a worsening health crisis, why not just change the rules?
On Saturday, two days after the country logged a record 1,473 deaths in a single day, the health ministry's webpage went dark . Returning hours later, it displayed only the previous day's toll of new infections and deaths. No more running tally of new infections and fatalities, an important metric for tracking the disease over time; the metadata and subnational totals were no longer available.
What to do about all those vexing headlines on prime-time television, driving the national funk and the next day's news cycle? No worries: Just push back release of the daily health bulletin, which in recent weeks has slipped from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. or so. The health ministry alleged technical problems for the delay and data reset. Bolsonaro had a different explanation: “No more stories for Jornal Nacional,” he quipped, sniping at leading broadcaster TV Globo's popular dinnertime newscast.
Even for the bottom-feeding Bolsonaro government, this was a new low. Since March, he has answered the emergency with denial (it's “just a little flu ”), magical thinking ( choroquine in every medicine chest ) and hubris. Yes, many will fall, he allowed, but Brazilian patriots need to suck it up and retake the economy. That pesky body count? Overblown, he claimed. Two health ministers have cleaned out their desks since April, and a third candidate demurred on Sunday, after causing national outrage by accusing regional health officials of padding their roll of victims to grab more federal aid.
So muddled were the numbers that followed the statistical makeover that Johns Hopkins University, which tracks the pandemic in 188 nations, briefly removed Brazil from its list of afflicted nations.
Brasilia's sleight of hand fooled no one. “Do they think the bodies won't appear?” former president Fernando Henrique Cardoso asked on a televised interview Sunday. Former health minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta, whose repeated calls for social distancing led to his firing in April, called the data eclipse a tragedy. “Authoritarian, insensitive, inhumane and unethical,” the national council of state health secretariats labeled the official move to occult deaths in a statement June 6 . “Neither we nor Brazilian society will forget the tragedy befalling the nation.”
Leading media groups agreed on Monday to work together to compile and publish the complete national and state numbers for coronavirus infections and fatalities.
Bolsonaro's repeated assaults on data — don't ask him about deforestation in the Amazon, for instance — put him in the company of the leftist Latin American leaders he most reviles. When Argentina's economy went sour last decade, then-President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner fiddled with inflation and poverty statistics, drawing a rare “ red card ” from the IMF. Venezuelan fumbling strongman Nicolas Maduro simply stopped publishing numbers when the economy nosedived and has done the same during the pandemic .
Compounding Bolsonaro's disgrace, the official attempts to hide health stats are also an assault on a discipline at which Brazilians, despite serial economic and political crises, have excelled: public medicine. Some of the country's most highly regarded civil servants have been the physicians who confronted not just deadly ailments but the popular pushback and political obscurity that kept them raging. Early last century, microbiologist Oswaldo Cruz helped rid Rio de Janeiro, then the Brazilian capital, of yellow fever, while also fighting a fierce popular backlash against the mandatory smallpox vaccination campaign.
Cruz was followed by generations of medical doctors, epidemiologists and public health researchers who kept chasing pathogens even as politicians caviled. Ciro de Quadros took a polio vaccine campaign worldwide, persuading combatants in civil war-torn El Salvador and Guatemala to stop shooting long enough to inoculate citizens at risk.
Brazilian virologists and lab investigators pioneered affordable antiretroviral medication for HIV/AIDS patients, offering treatment at no charge for all victims. They led research into more recent scourges such Zika, which provoked a severe neurological disorder in newborns, and are on the front lines of developing vaccines for the four strains of dengue fever, which last year sickened around 3 million Latin Americans.
Brazil's universal health care sustem, SUS, though chronically underfunded and plagued by waste and waiting lists, treats anyone free of charge and orchestrates national inoculation campaigns. A network of vaccine research institutes produces 80% of all vaccines, allowing for quick response to outbreaks. When H1N1 reached the Americas in the late 2000s, Brazil's epidemic response team inoculated 89 million people, nearly half the population. A handful of national research institutes, including Oswaldo Cruz's eponymous foundation, has joined the global effort to develop SARS-CoV-2 vaccines.
That's an awful lot of good medicine to overlook. And yet Brazil has been there before. During Brazil's 21-year military dictatorship, the generals banned all mention of one of the nation's worst bouts of viral meningitis. The result was a muddled official response and a surge in preventable deaths. That's a historical relapse Brazil can ill afford.
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.
We invite you to join us as a sponsor.
Circulated Videos, Articles, Opinions and Reports which carry your name and brand are used to target Entrepreneurs through our site, promoting your organization’s services. The opportunity is to insert in our stories pages short attention-grabbing videos, or to publish your own feature stories.
Mac Margolis is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering Latin and South America. He was a reporter for Newsweek and is the author of “The Last New World: The Conquest of the Amazon Frontier.” . Petroleumworld reprint this article in the interest of our readers.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published by Bloomberg, on June 9, 2020. All comments posted and published on Petroleumworld, do not reflect either for or against the opinion expressed in the comment as an endorsement of Petroleumworld.
Use Notice: This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of issues of environmental and humanitarian significance.
We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml.
PW 300.000 plus request per week
Hit your target - Advertise with us
All works published by Petroleumworld are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.Petroleumworld has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is Petroleumworld endorsed or sponsored by the originator.
Petroleumworld encourages persons to reproduce, reprint, or broadcast Petroleumworld articles provided that any such reproduction identify the original source, http://www.petroleumworld.com or else and it is done within the fair use as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law.
If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. Internet web links to http://www.petroleumworld.com are appreciated. Petroleumworld Copyright© 1999-2020 Petroleumworld or respective author or news agency. All rights reserved.
We welcome the use of Petroleumworld™ stories by anyone provided it mentions Petroleumworld.com as the source. Other stories you have to get authorization by its authors.
Internet web links to http://www.petroleumworld.com are appreciated.
Petroleumworld welcomes your feedback and comments, share your thoughts on this article, your feedback is important to us!
Petroleumworld News 06 15 2020
We invite all our readers to share with us
their views and comments about this article.
Send this story to a friend Write to email@example.com
By using this link, you agree to allow PW
to publish your comments on our letters page.
Any question or suggestions,
please write to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Best Viewed with IE 5.01+ Windows NT 4.0, '95,
'98,ME,XP, Vista, Windows 7,8 +/ 800x600 pixels