Economic recovery was uncoordinated in 73% of the cities, and those who opened earlier damaged the isolated
A month after scenes of chaos in public health in countries like Italy and Spain shocked the world, the coronavirus arrived in Brazil. Since the 15th of March, the growth of cases has led most municipalities in the country to adopt social isolation, with the closing of businesses considered non-essential. But, just a few weeks after the rules were tightened to contain the transmission of the virus, part of the city halls across the country eased this closure of economic activities, an effect considered disastrous, according to infectologists, to slow the progress of the pandemic.
In the Triângulo Mineiro, a small municipality exemplifies this behavior in the country. With no registered case of Covid-19, this city allowed the reopening of restaurants, clothing stores and stationery stores a few days after a decree restricted these activities. Currently, the municipality, with 26,185 inhabitants, accounts for almost 600 infections and more than ten deaths due to the coronavirus.
According to a study by the University of Oxford, in the United Kingdom, this easing, considered early, also led to an explosion of cases in the country and, consequently, to the uncontrolled pandemic. In addition, an unprecedented survey, based on data collected by the National Confederation of Municipalities (CNM), pointed out that the reopening of economic activities was disorganized throughout Brazil – not even neighboring cities made similar decisions.
For the director of the Center for Brazilian Studies at Oxford, Andreza Aruska de Souza Santos, despite the fact that the restriction measures started in practically the same period in Brazilian cities, flexibilization did not follow this same pace. “What happened was that there was not a key moment when cities started to relax. This started in late March and continued until July, ”he added.
In the accounts
In most of the 4,061 Brazilian municipalities surveyed – 73% of this total – the reopening of trade took place before the control of the pandemic. “In 89.5% of the locations that started to register at least 20 cases per day, the reopening of activities was before the peak”, emphasizes Andreza Santos.
Another point that influenced the progress of the disease, according to the researcher, was society’s adherence to social isolation. “The flexibility of the measures was not always related to the reduction of confirmed cases, nor was it coordinated between neighboring cities. The borders of the municipalities are porous, and those that maintain strict social distance policies may face an increasing number of cases because of external decisions, ”concluded the study.
Without cases, opening was pressed
For the consultant in the area of technical studies at CNM, Eduardo Stranz, it was precisely in cities with no records of Covid-19 infections that mayors ended up under the greatest pressure to reopen non-essential trade at the beginning of the pandemic. “After two, three weeks with no infected people, people started to question why the establishments are still closed. Society itself put pressure on the public manager to relax. And they started to happen randomly, without much relation to the number of cases ”, he explained.
He recalls that, as part of the population began to lose their jobs in capitals and metropolitan regions, the alternative for many was to return to the interior. “This caused the virus to be taken to these cities as well. Resumption of activities is a much more complex and difficult to coordinate process. Even today, not even the big cities know when to open, and it stays there. Nobody has a recipe for this issue ”, he concluded.
Examples from other countries did not work
According to the professor at Unicamp and consultant to the Brazilian Society of Infectiousness Raquel Stucchi, the Oxford study reveals a lack of national coordination to guide the decisions of municipalities – the situation led the Supreme Court (STF) to give autonomy to cities and states in regarding measures to combat Covid-19. “This lack of coordination extended to the States, many had an outbreak of the disease and are still resistant to taking restrictive measures,” he argued.
The specialist also cites as a difficulty the continental extension of Brazil, with differences between each region. “It would not be possible to do here what New Zealand did, which had a single rule adopted across the country. But we are unable to understand the seriousness of the pandemic and we refuse to learn from what Europe has taught us ”, he concluded.