Brazil has the most Covid-19 cases and deaths in South America, (241,080 cases and 16,122 deaths as of 18 May). However, the Bolsonaro government has been notoriously dismissive of the pandemic, with the president saying that “unemployment, hunger and misery will be the future of those who support the tyranny of total isolation.” On 23 April, when asked about the rapidly increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases by journalists, the President shrugged off the news by responding: “So what”?
On 31 March, Brazil suspended the entry of foreign nationals by air for 30 days in order to slow the spread of Covid-19. The ban does not apply to Brazilian nationals.
Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) reports that it is working to assist migrants and asylum seekers in the country to respond to Covid-19 with teams working in São Paulo, Boa Vista and Rio de Janeiro. In Boa Vista, MSF is working with Venezuelan migrants and asylum seekers who live in precarious conditions, with little space and often without regular access to water. Ana de Lemos, executive director of MSF-Brazil said, “At times like this, it is crucial to have a clear orientation, but unfortunately we have witnessed the dissemination of contradictory guidelines that hinder compliance with the necessary measures.” In São Paulo, MSF began working with homeless people, migrants and refugees, drug users and the elderly given that these groups were already particularly vulnerable. MSF teams have been providing medical consultations for screening and detention of people with suspected cases of Covid-19 and referring patients in more serious conditions to hospitals.
UNHCR is also assisting Venezuelan refugees and migrants living in shelters in Manaus by distributing kits including thermometers, gloves and alcohol gel hand sanitiser. UNFPA also distributed 1,000 kits for migrant and refugee people in Roraima to help combat the spread of Covid-19. With these kits, UNFPA seeks to guarantee access to items such as soap, deodorant, toothbrushes, intimate pads and alcohol gel to vulnerable people.
On 11 May, it was reported that 35 percent of prisons in the state of Sao Paulo (62 out of 176 facilities) had confirmed or suspected Covid-19 cases. 79 detainees were placed in quarantine and 232 staff members were told to stay at home. There have been 13 confirmed deaths due to the virus (7 prisoners and 6 staff members). According to Prison Insider, no coordinated measures between the Ministry of Justice and prison authorities have been put in place to deal with the health crisis. Measures taken vary between facilities, especially depending on whether they are federal or local prisons. In federal prisons, the Ministry of Justice announced on 16 March, the suspension of visits for 15 days, while in state prisons, measures vary including the partial or total suspension of visits and informing prisoners of preventive measures to be adopted.
The GDP has nonetheless been unable to find reports indicating that authorities have adopted measures to assist any migrants in detention.
- The Lancet, “Covid-19 in Brazil: ‘So What’?” 9 May 2020, https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)31095-3/fulltext
- D. Phillips, “Brazil Loses Second Health Minister in less than a Month as Covid-19 Deaths Rise,” The Guardian, 15 May 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/may/15/brazil-health-minister-nelson-teich-resigns
- T. Phillips, “‘So What?’: Bolsonaro Shrugs Off Brazil’s Rising Coronavirus Death Toll,” The Guardian, 29 April 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/29/so-what-bolsonaro-shrugs-off-brazil-rising-coronavirus-death-toll
- Médecins Sans Frontières, “MSF Provides Care to Vulnerable People During Covid-19 Response in Brazil,” 22 April 2020, https://www.msf.org/providing-care-vulnerable-people-during-covid-19-brazil
- UNHCR, “Brazil. UNHCR Helps Venezuelan Refugees and Migrants Combat Covid-19,” 3 April 2020, https://www.unhcr.org/mt/13759-the-rights-and-health-of-refugees-migrants-and-stateless-must-be-protected-in-covid-19-response.html/brazil-unhcr-helps-venezuelan-refugees-and-migrants-combat-covid-19
- UNFPA Brazil, “To Fight Covid-19, UNFPA Brazil Delivers Dignity Kits to Migrants and Refugee People in Roraima,” 22 April 2020, https://brazil.unfpa.org/pt-br/news/fight-covid-19-unfpa-brazil-delivers-dignity-kits-migrant-and-refugee-people-roraima
- R. Pagnan, “Coronavírus avança e 35% de presídios de SP têm casos suspeitos ou confirmados,” Folha de S.Paulo, 11 May 2020, https://www1.folha.uol.com.br/cotidiano/2020/05/coronavirus-avanca-e-35-de-presidios-de-sp-tem-casos-suspeitos-ou-confirmados.shtml
- Prison Insider, “Amériques: Coronavirus, La Fièvre des Prisons,” 18 March 2020, https://www.prison-insider.com/articles/ameriques-coronavirus-la-fievre-des-prisons#bresil-5e82158fdc359
- A Queue of People Forms at an MSF Clinic Where Staff Evaluate and Screen Homeless People for Covid-19 in Sao Paulo, (Médecins Sans Frontières, “MSF Provides Care to Vulnerable People During Covid-19 Response in Brazil,” 22 April 2020, https://www.msf.org/providing-care-vulnerable-people-during-covid-19-brazil)