The Global Corona Virus – The Current Situation in Brazil and Beyond

  • The global coronavirus pandemic has infected 2,223,122 people and caused 152,328 deaths as of April 18th, disrupting national and global economies.
  • On Easter Sunday, the Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil statue was lit up to pay homage to healthcare workers all around the world.
  • More than 180 countries have been affected, with the United States being the hardest-hit country. The worst affected economies include the United States, the European Union, South Korea, Japan, Vietnam, and Taiwan.
  • The situation in Brazil is alarming, with a total of 33,682 confirmed cases, while the death toll is 2,141 deaths. There is a disagreement between President Jair Bolsonaro and the state governors regarding the need for a complete lockdown.
  • Healthcare workers all around the world are at serious risk of getting infected due to a lack of PPE. Following the social distancing protocols and remaining at home can decrease the increased burden on the healthcare sector, which is on the verge of collapse.

The global coronavirus pandemic has infected 2,223,122 people all around the globe, causing 152,328 deaths as of April 18th. So far, the virus has killed 1,241 in Brazil alone. The U.S. is at present the hardest-hit country with up to 557,663 coronavirus cases and 22,116 total deaths, as reported by Johns Hopkins.

Millions of people have been placed in lockdown, and normal life has been disrupted. It has wrecked the local and global economies. This global crisis has also put extreme pressure on the healthcare sector, with the healthcare professionals having to do extra long and exhausting shifts. While having to put their lives at stake, healthcare professionals also have had to stay separated from their families for their protection. It was to pay tribute to the healthcare workers who are fighting coronavirus that Rio’s Christ the Redeemer statue was lit up as a doctor on Easter Sunday.

A Heartfelt Tribute to Healthcare Professionals

The famous Christ the Redeemer statue that is located atop Mount Corcovado is a ubiquitous symbol of faith that overlooks Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Easter Sunday is one of the holiest days for Christians. On this day, this powerful statue did not just immortalize Jesus but also paid homage to the brave frontline healthcare workers who are working tirelessly to battle the coronavirus all around the world.

Lights were used to project a medical outfit onto the statue to transform the depiction of Jesus into a doctor. This made the statue appear like it was wearing a white lab coat and s stethoscope, while the words “thank you” in different languages flashed across him. “Obrigado,” “merci,” “Grazie,” “Danke,” “gracias,” “ありがとう,” “谢谢,” “감사” “תודה,” read the messages, thanking millions of healthcare workers who are selflessly battling the COVID-19 pandemic across the globe. Following this, the projection showed short videos of healthcare workers wearing scrubs and donning face masks with smiles on their faces. The words “Fique em casa,” – which means “Stay at home,” – were then displayed. The point was to encourage the people to understand the importance of respecting the lockdown that can help the world in its fight against the spread of the virus.

Rio’s Christ the Redeemer lit up with the flags of countries affected by Coronavirus. As the world struggles with this epidemic, Christians reminded everyone to pray together through the famous statue.

People all over the world have been asked to remain at home. These social distancing measures have been proven effective in controlling the spread of this deadly virus. Several countries have implemented nationwide lockdowns, while forty-four U.S. states have issued strict stay-at-home orders.

During this event, flags of different countries that are severely affected were also projected to show solidarity with them along with the word “Hope.” However, this wasn’t the first time that the Christ the Redeemer statue was lit up to show solidarity with some of the many countries affected by the pandemic. In March, the message of “Praying Together,” along with the flags, was projected across the iconic 125-foot-tall statue.

This event was an initiative of the Catholic Church. A Catholic Chapel is located below the iconic statue of Christ the Redeemer. During the light show, the city’s archbishop, Dom Orani Tempesta, performed a mass at the base of the figure, paying homage to medical workers.

The timing of the memorable event was also relevant. Easter Sunday is the Holy Week’s culmination. It commemorates the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and it is the most important festival in Christianity. Every year, Christians all over the world celebrate it with great joy and enthusiasm. At this time, the churches are decorated with flowers, and there are special songs and hymns. Moreover,  many churches celebrate online worship services due to the pandemic. The story of Easter is at the heart of Christianity. Jesus Christ was crucified on Good Friday (See Matthew 27:32-55; Mark 15:21-41; Luke 23:26-49; John 19:17-30). His body was removed from the cross and then buried in a cave, and this tomb was guarded. An enormous stone was put across the entrance so that no one could steal Jesus’s body (See Matthew 27:57-61; Mark 15:42-47; Luke 23:50-56; John 19:38-42). On the following Sunday, some women visited the grave and found that the stone had been moved, and the tomb was left empty. On that day and several others, Jesus was sighted by many people. His followers came to believe that Jesus had been raised from the dead by God (See Matthew 28:1-10; Mark 16:1-10; Luke 24:1-12; John 20:1-10).

The Impact of the Coronavirus Pandemic

The World Health Organization (WHO) has officially named the novel coronavirus as COVID-19 and declared it a pandemic on March 11th. It has spread to more than 180 countries, infecting 2,223,122 people and killing 152,328 of them. The spread of the virus started from China, but at present, about 90% of the global COVID-19 cases are outside China. Europe has become the new epicenter, while the U.S. is the hardest-hit country. The U.S. declared the coronavirus outbreak as a public health emergency on February 1st. It temporarily banned travel to it from European nations. As billions of people have been put under lockdown to protect them from getting infected, normal life has been put to hold. Schools and other educational institutes had to be shut down, while some people are working from home. This has severely affected the national economies, contributing to a significant decline in the world economy. Economies that were the worst affected include the U.S., the European Union, South Korea, Japan, Vietnam and Taiwan, as reported by the preliminary estimates of trade impact by The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

The Situation in Brazil 

The coronavirus pandemic has not been kind to Brazil. Brazil hit its all-time high for both the indicators on Thursday, April 16th, with 3,657 new cases and 217 deaths. Now, Brazil has a total of 33,682 confirmed cases, while the death toll is 2,141 deaths.

Unfortunately, the coronavirus lethality rate is also increasing, and reached 6.4 percent in just last week. The worst indicators were recorded in the Northeastern states. Paraiba is the worst state for infected patients with a mortality rate of 13.3 percent. Next is Pernambuco, with 3.8 percent. The northernmost state of Roraima has the lowest percent lethality rate of 1.8 percent, although experts suspect that underreporting may be a factor.

Despite the severity of the situation, Brazil’s president, President Jair Bolsonaro, remains one of the few world leaders who are downplaying the disease’s threat. He was even considered the worst world leader to deal with coronavirus. As a leader, his stance remains anti-lockdown. He has been pushing back on social distancing policies in the past few weeks, undermining the diseases as a “little flu.” He believes that the collapse of Brazil’s economy would be far more harmful to the country than the further spread of the disease. He has even claimed that the state governors are inflating the number of infected people so that they can justify the strict restrictive lockdown measures that they have placed in their states.

Brazil’s exonerated Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta, right, gives anti-bacterial gel to President Jair Bolsonaro as they give a press conference when he was still the ministry.

The president has been facing an increasing backlash over how he is handling the coronavirus. The state governors, who are responsible for 200 million of Brazil’s 210 million people have been refusing to follow Bolsonaro’s commands regarding the pandemic. At the end of March, Bolsonaro defied the advice of his own health ministry, and the World Health Organization and urged the Brazilians to resume working. However, politicians and the general public largely ignored his commands. Bolsonaro is also increasingly appearing isolated from his own cabinet. On April 16, President Bolsonaro fired Mandetta, the health ministry, because he was aligned with the World Health Organization and following its recommendations.

Only three out of Brazil’s twenty-seven states relaxed social isolation measures.  João Doria, the governor of São Paulo, Brazil’s highest populated and most economically important state, has maintained a strict quarantine despite this. In fact, he openly defied Bolsonaro, instructing its 44 million citizens: “Do not follow the guidance of the president.”

Similarly, Rio de Janeiro’s governor, Wilson Witzel, who was diagnosed with Covid-19, also refused to relax the strict social isolation measures in his state.

The Care-Givers Are the Most Vulnerable

While the coronavirus pandemic is challenging for all, the people who are the most affected are undoubtedly the healthcare workers. Dealing with widespread disease is putting extreme pressure on the healthcare sector. The increasing number of cases in every country is a threat to the stability of the healthcare system because of the limited number of medical staff, hospitals, isolation centers and medical equipment, and the larger than ever patient flow. Of course, the fact that the novel coronavirus is extremely virulent and spreads uncontrollably fast does not help the situation.

Doctors all around the world have been forced to work in harder conditions, and for longer hours. They are also required to maintain a safe distance from their own families so that they do not become carriers of the virus for them. There are not enough hospitals for everybody, and it is a challenge for the healthcare sector to manage the huge number of incoming patients. This struggle is pushing the healthcare system to the verge of collapse. On top of that, the increasing number of deaths is another challenge because there are not enough coffins and funeral homes to bury everybody. Also, even the dead body of a COVID-19 patient can infect others. Therefore, disposing them off is an additional problem that needs extra human resources and strategy, forcing countries to resort to emergency measures, for example, mass graves used by Italy.

What makes the situation worse is the unfortunate shortage of protective equipment, which makes them exposed to a high risk of getting infected. The nature of the jobs of the medical professionals puts them at an increased risk of catching a contagious disease, and COVID-19 is no different. When the doctors and nurses are treating patients with infectious diseases like COVID-19, they need to wear personal protective equipment (PPE), such as masks, gowns, and gloves. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), for protection against this new virus, the health care workers must wear N95 masks. Only these masks can filter out tiny droplets and airborne particles that may be coughed out by an infected patient. It is also essential that this protective equipment is used properly, for example, the masks have to be worn, fitted and removed in a specific way, and cross-contamination needs to be prevented.

Nevertheless, the masks and gloves can only be helpful if they are available for the medical staff. Masks may not be very beneficial for the general public because they don’t know how to put them on and remove them safely. Nevertheless, people have still been panic-buying these masks. This has led to a shortage, meaning that most of the countries do not have sufficient PPE to respond to the pandemic. A survey by National Nurses United reported that less than one-third of the nurses in the U.S. have enough PPE to deal with the outbreak.

Health Care workers from Brasil holding signs saying, “We are here for you! Please stay home for us!

This is a major concern for every country right now. The doctors and nurses who are at risk are getting infected every day, and this is hamstringing the healthcare system. Amidst outbreaks and major disasters, as many health care professionals as possible, are needed to handle the patient surge. If they fall ill, they would be adding to the patient surge, instead of participating as responding personnel. It is also an anxiety-provoking situation for health care workers because they have to care for their colleagues and see them becoming patients. To add to that, it is physically and mentally draining to know that you might be at risk while you are doing your job.

Stay at Home – Contribute to Collective Safety 

The general public can contribute to controlling the spread of the disease by following public health guidelines and respecting the lockdown protocols. This will prevent people from getting sick and passing on the infection to others, preventing an increase in the number of patients who need medical help in hospitals. The health care workers are putting their own safety at risk every day as they continue to care for COVID-19 patients. The least that the public can do is try to stay well and away from hospitals and leave the PPE for the health care workers so that they can work as safely as possible. This protects health care workers, which protects everybody else.

Developing Our World Comes to the Rescue

Developing Our World, an organization that is working for holistic community development in Guatemala and beyond has stepped up to help out in this worrisome situation. We are gathering funds to buy medical masks and gloves in Guatemala and provide them to the health care workers and the people. This way, we can help people and the local economy. The focus will be those who reside in villages because there are no proper hospitals there – typically only a “Puesto de Salud” (clinic) with a volunteer or nurse is present.

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Miguel Torneire

Is the founder and the Executive Director of Developing Our World, an organization that seeks to put holistic community development into action. He loves Jesus! And, he is a husband, a father, a Lutheran Pastor, a Missionary, an Author, a flamenguista (a supporter of Clube de Regatas do Flamengo soccer team), and a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner.

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