Brazil, Economic Pressure Wins Out Over Health Advice

On 1 June, a number of the Brazilian cities and states that have been the worst hit by the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic began plans for the lifting of isolation measures and economic reactivation.
Brazil Economic Health Advice


The country with the second highest number of cases globally, Brazil’s chaotic response to the pandemic has been marked by a lack of national leadership and President Jair Bolsonaro’s denialism of the severity of the disease. The country’s sanitary situation is already a concern to health experts, who have warned that it is too early to begin lifting measures aimed at containing the spread of Covid-19. But as the pandemic’s crippling economic impact becomes clearer, even the hardest hit cities have not waited for the outbreak to appear controlled before tabling plans for economic reactivation. 

  • Michael Ryan, a World Health Organization (WHO) executive director, warned yesterday that Central and South America have become “intense zones of transmission” for Covid-19, and that the region’s outbreak has not peaked yet. With 526,447 confirmed Covid-19 cases and 29,937 fatalities, according to yesterday’s health ministry figures, Brazil concentrates around half of Latin America’s cases, and more than 50% of deaths.
  • Yet cities in the states of São Paulo, Amazonas, Ceará, and Pará yesterday began easing lockdown measures, according to plans established at state or municipal level. Along with Rio de Janeiro, they are Brazil’s hardest hit states. Amazonas state capital, Manaus, suffered the complete collapse of its public healthcare system earlier in April, while parts of Pará and Ceará had gone into strict enforced lockdown in May.
  • The mayor of the city of Rio de Janeiro, Marcelo Crivella, yesterday announced a six-step plan for the gradual reactivation of economic activity from today (2 June). The Fundação Oswaldo Cruz (Fiocruz), a scientific research institute, has expressed concern with the lifting of isolation measures in Rio, addressing a note to state prosecutors (MPRJ) outlining how intermittent isolation measures should be considered and adopted.

Looking Ahead:

Brazil’s seven-day rolling average of new Covid-19 cases and deaths is now higher than the US’s. Ryan said that he cannot now estimate when transmission will peak in Latin America, but local projections in Brazil point to it being in July.

In brief: Brazil’s trade surplus shrinks in May

* Brazil’s economy ministry has released the latest trade balance figures, according to which the country recorded a US$4.5bn trade surplus in May. This is the lowest surplus recorded for May since 2015, and represents a 19.1% decrease on the May 2019 trade surplus. The value of exports totalled US$17.94bn in May 2020, a 4.2% decrease on last year driven by a fall in industrial exports, while the value of imports fell by 1.6% to US$13.39bn. The economy ministry has stressed that the volume of exports actually grew 5.6% year-on-year, despite the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, driven by an increase in agricultural exports. The agro-industrial sector is the only sector to have seen both the value and the volume of its exports increase in May.