By Paulo César Pereira
Here in Brazil we are experiencing difficult days. Our fight is not only against the Coronavirus, but also against a government that kills as much as COVID-19. President Bolsonaro has no sensitivity toward the poor. He is literally at the service of other forces. His initiatives are all bad for the poorest of the poor. At the beginning of the pandemic, his administration proposed aid to the poor and unemployed of around R$200.00. This amount corresponds to approximately $35.00 USD. The national congress increased it to R$600.00. But most people have not yet been able to receive that payment.
The number of deaths is growing every day.To date we have already lost more than 18,000 people. We will still lose many more, as the president is encouraging people to get out of social isolation and go into the streets. He does not care about the consequences, as he does this simply to meet the requests of big businessmen. These have no commitment to people, because if a worker dies they can immediately replace that worker with another one. It is really easy to find laborers in Brazil at a very cheap rate. Many business owners have already put videos on the internet demanding their employees to return to work, even though we have not even reached the peak of the pandemic yet.
The number of people affected by the pandemic is enormous, although the confirmed cases are not the most alarming, given huge under-reporting and lack of tests. To give you an idea, my wife Rosy has treated more than 50 people in our community and surroundings with coronavirus symptoms. None of these cases are included in official statistics, since there are no tests available to confirm their diagnosis and because she is not seeing them in a hospital.
This moment is very worrying for us because now the virus is hitting the needy communities and the slums the hardest. In these communities it is very common for a home to have access to running water only once or twice a week. So people cannot do adequate personal hygiene. In addition, homes are very crowded, with many people crammed into small spaces.
In some cities in Brazil, ICU beds are almost full. The cities that concern us most are Manaus, São Paulo, Fortaleza, Belém, Recife and São Luiz. They are all large cities with large populations. In all of them, ICU beds with respirators are already over 90% occupied or at maximum capacity.
Evangelical churches are campaigning for the reopening of their buildings so they can hold face-to-face services.This is both sad and disgusting. Churches affiliated with the Aliança are open only to provide social services to individuals and surrounding communities. We pray for their survival and that we will not lose hope.
Paulo César Pereira is pastor of the Premeira Igreja Batista em Bultrins, Pernambuco, Brasil.