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Brazil’s Health System Collapse due to COVID-19: What happened?

Updated: Jan 28, 2022

By Umar Mohammad

[Photo credit: The Telegraph]

Every country on this planet has felt the effects of COVID-19, some experiencing the brunt of the blow. Brazil is no exception―it is now handling the biggest health system collapse in history. A health system, as the name blatantly suggests, is a hierarchy that consists of ‘publicly owned facilities that deliver personal health services, by promoting, restoring, and maintaining health’ as defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO). When the health system collapsed, in the case of Brazil, patients that required emergency treatment had to ‘line up’ for beds and ventilators―an unfortunate amount met their death awaiting vacancies.

The virus arrived in February 2020, but it became the lodestone of cases and death rate in May 2021. The country began easing up on its restrictions in August of 2020, seeing that both cases as well as death rates were dropping. By November the cases began to rise steeply once again as a consequence. This rapid incline resulted in more health system collapses of individual cities that had just recovered.

Health systems subsiding are not only dependent on unprecedented diseases; in the case of Brazil, the government also has a part to play, particularly Jair Bolsonaro―the country’s president. His negative attitude towards preventative measures in place to battle the virus has resulted in a cataclysm in the country. He hindered federal response against the pandemic, whilst dismissing the effects of the virus and fabricating ‘cures,’ validating the claims through health ministers―forcibly. Ironically, the president himself was fined for not wearing a mask in a motorbike rally. And to top that off, Bolsonaro contracted the virus; after recovering he promoted hydroxychloroquine as a working cure. The pandemic was used as a political tool―a smokescreen for anything dirty the government takes part in.

Another factor is the fact that the South American country is a Lower Economically Developed Country (LEDC). The health system lacks funding, as funds are diverted for the purpose of upholding the economy. Another problem that takes root from this; inequality. The unemployed, the poor, and the black Brazilians, are most affected by this; they don’t have preventative equipment―forget social distancing, for they live in densely populated areas.

Many LEDCs had to choose between the economy or lives. Both are inversely proportional, where one falls, the other rises. Choosing the economy over saving lives (ie. lockdown) results in more deaths but provides people with an income. Prioritizing lives over the economy, affects, well, the economy, which in turn affects those who need wages to live. Brazil, akin to the USA (during Trump’s term), placed preference on the economy rather than lives. However, now that many countries are slowly recuperating from the effects of the pandemic, studies show that the countries that set about tackling the virus were rewarded with a lower death toll as well as smaller fluctuations in their economy.


[1] Guardian staff reporter. “Jair Bolsonaro Fined for Not Wearing Mask at São Paulo Biker Rally.” The Guardian, The Guardian, 13 June 2021, Accessed 13 Sept. 2021.

[2] “Coronavirus in Brazil: What You Need to Know.” The New York Times, 2021, Accessed 13 Sept. 2021.

[3] Alfredo Saad Filho, and Fernanda Feil. “COVID-19 in Brazil: How Jair Bolsonaro Created a Calamity.” The Conversation, 23 Apr. 2021, . Accessed 13 Sept. 2021.

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