Message from Ambassador Sérgio Eduardo Moreira Lima, Canberra.

On March 11, the Director of the World Health Organisation declared COVID-19 a pandemic.

This means that the spread of the new disease affects not only a wide geographic area but also a high proportion of the world population. It represents a most serious challenge for countries and for the whole international community.

As a consequence of fear and uncertainty, the pandemic has an economic impact that risks generating a global recession.

Every country is assessing the situation and taking the necessary measures to contain the spread of the disease, to protect the population, especially those more vulnerable, and research a solution for combating the virus. Exceptional measures are being taken to prevent a sudden halt of economic activity having unemployment as its corollary.

In the case of Brazil, there are 291 reported cases of corona virus as of March 17th2020 and one death as a consequence of the disease.

The Brazilian population is estimated to be 212 million people living in a territory larger than Australia. Some of the major capital cities, such as Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, are megalopolis with more than 12 million and 20 million inhabitants, respectively.

At the federal, state and municipal levels, preventive measures are being taken to contain the spread of the cases, which started at gateways for those coming from abroad.

On the other hand, monetary and financial authorities are resorting to stimulus measures to maintain and spur economic activity. Before the crisis, prospects for Brazil’s GDP expansion in 2020 amounted to 2,4%.

Is Brazil prepared to face the pandemic of COVID-19?  And can it overcome the challenge without falling back into recession?  There is no straightforward answer to these questions yet, due to the uncertainty concerning the dimension of the health and the economic conundrum worldwide.

Brazil has a tradition in dealing with epidemics.

The names of scientists Oswaldo Cruz, Carlos Chagas and Vital Brasil are references in overcoming diseases  and contributing to the development of tropical medicine, in which Brazil has been at the forefront since the beginning of the 20thcentury.

Following this tradition, Brazil established in 1988 the Unified National Health System (SUS), which covers 70 percent of the Brazilian population and has an impact beyond the country’s frontiers.

Now, the public healthcare apparatus faces perhaps its biggest challenge. The Brazilian Association of Intensive Care Medicine, however, says SUS meets World Health Organization (WHO) standards—of 1 to 3 beds per 10,000 inhabitants.

Indeed, with SUS, Brazil has one of the largest health care systems in the world in terms of number of users.

It includes several parts of the protection chain. The units are often community references in poorer areas and even very close to people’s homes.

This first phase of diagnosis, when done well, can reduce the inevitable future stage of the pandemic. The easier access to the first exams might prevent hospitals that receive patients with advanced symptoms from becoming real transmission sites.

President Bolsonaro established a crisis cabinet and the federal administration has passed several measures trying to anticipate the stages of the outbreak.

One of the first moves was including tests for Covid-19 in the list of exams health insurance companies must cover—as long as the patient is considered a “suspected case” by a physician.

 

The Brazilian Health Minister Luiz Mandetta has emerged as a voice which inspires trust in the measures being taken by the government and the work of Brazilian health institutions

 

The Brazilian Health Minister Luiz Mandetta has also emerged as a voice which inspires trust in the measures being taken by the government and the work of Brazilian health institutions, such as Fiocruz, to meet public demand.

The minister pointed out that the virus’s lethal  level was still low, but its main impact is its potential to overload the country’s health care system, which will require more agents, beds, supplies, and funds to bolster structure. As cases increase, more people seek the health care units.

Researchers from the Laboratory of Immunology of the Heart Institute (Incor) of the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Sao Paulo (USP) are developing a vaccine against Corona virus which causes the acute respiratory syndrome (Sars-CoV-2).

Brazil is part of the international effort against Covid-19.

The contribution of every individual and also the Brazilian community in Australia should be to follow the advice and recommendations of the health authorities and act responsibly.

I trust that, as it has happened in the past, scientific research and health care will, with the necessary support from society, overcome this pandemic in time to prevent major economic disruption.

Message from Ambassador Sérgio Eduardo Moreira Lima

Canberra, 17 March 2020

 


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