Curitiba
Bebeti do Amaral Gurgel, Brasilian, Lioness, Journalist, Author, LGBTQUVWXZY

It is sad, difficult and heavy to be in the hands of a government that practices the pandemic's denialism. There is no sympathy for the families of those who died, not even a gesture. There are also no instructions on what to do, how to do, what to expect.  

By Bebeti do Amaral Gurgel

Bebeti do Amaral Gurgel © Bebeti do Amaral Gurgel
It was over there in China. For us, who live in Brazil, something rather weird was happening over there in China. China for us is the other side of the world, another planet, very far away from us. But, little by little, the space on the TV news started to get increased, and it was increasing, increasing, and every day China got more space on TV. Some virus was in China. The seconds on TV become minutes, and more minutes, until they become the main subject on TV news: hundreds of Chinese people were dying of a new coronavirus.
From television, the subject started to enter on conversations among friends.
  • What is happening in China?
  • A hospital was built in ten days!
  • But what virus is this?
  • What a sad thing, strength for the Chinese! 
From China the vírus went to Europe, and the television news began to open up even more space for the new coronavirus. Europe is close to Brazilians because we are all descendants of Europeans, indigenous people and black people from Africa. We are a mestizo people on genetics and culture, the mixture is in our blood, every Brazilian has a drop of black blood, a drop of indigenous blood and a drop of European blood. In Curitiba, where I live, Italian immigration is rather strong. So, we began to see, horrified, Venice closed, Rome closed, dreams closed. The coronavirus arrived in Spain, arrived in the United States, went down and arrived in Brazil.
 
Unlike other countries, Brazilian government takes a negationist attitude. "It's just a little cold", says the president. And a calm panic begins to take over the country. The reaction to the arrival of the pandemic in Brazil varied among social classes. The most privileged class, the richest and generally the most informed, began to take some steps such as canceling tickets, buying hand sanitary stuff, masks, items which, in a week, disappeared from the shelves. The middle class, not really understanding what was going on, makes jokes, it's the Brazilian way, of accepting without accepting things. The lower class who doesn't even have time to think about what's coming from China because the concerns are different did not know how to react. Intellectuals, inserted in all classes, began to use social networks to show that a real and enormous danger was approaching, a danger already classified as a pandemic, in a country which has been experiencing daily political chaos since 2016.
 
Fear. Brazil would not be prepared for a pandemic of this size, without government, without resources, without structure, without Money, with a traumatic social inequality and with a president who insists on the pandemic's denial. Some governours closed shops, but soon afterwards reopen them. The economy speaks louder. The left wing positioned: “First people's lives, then the economy”. The center positioned: “Without the economy, people's lives do not exist”. And the right, always thinking about the economy, starts making caravans in luxurious cars asking for the trade to open. Business owners who are protected in their luxurious homes while the working poor people would go back to work.
 
The current situation in Brasil is a horror film. First, there is a denial of the pandemic. Then a dichotomy between right and left. Right thinks about the economy, left about life. Former presidential candidate Fernando Haddad writes on social media: "Brazil is living with a virus and the worm". The governor of São Paulo, Dória, said that in Brazil there are two viruses: the coronavirus and the President of the Republic.
 
It is sad, difficult and heavy to be in the hands of a government that practices the pandemic's denialism. There is no sympathy for the families of those who died, not even a gesture. There are also no instructions on what to do, how to do, what to expect.  
 
There are two images of the pandemic in Brazil: rich people making carts with expensive cars, wanting the trade to open, and on the other side long lines with very poor people, miserable people, trying to receive an emergency aid of 600 reais (about US $ 100). To receive this emergency aid, provided by law, people need to download an application on their cell phone, to be able to obtain a password. People who do not even have even water at home (16% of Brazilians do not have water at home) or bread to eat will never have cell phones with applications. I cannot predict the consequences of the pandemic, because in Brazil pandemic and government are mixed, both destructors.
 
I've been home alone for almost 70 days. I'm retired and I have some comfort. I order food online, I shop online. I'm afraid to leave home. The upper class keeps domestic workers, (not my case), the middle class started to order food online, which is not very expensive, 4 to 5 dollars. It gives me hope when I see on TV countries like Germany, Spain, France and Portugal reopening their stores. It gives me hope when I see a former restaurant nearby transforming into a movie drive-in with a movie theatre and food tray in the car like in the 1980s. It gives me hope when friends set up a date for September. I want to live, I'm afraid of the winter that is coming and winter in Brazil is without heating, but with minus 2 or 3 degrees. I hope they find the vaccine. I hope to survive the virus, but I worry a lot about the poorest classes in Brazil if there is no quick solution and a government attitude that really works.

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