Policy confusion reigns supreme as Brazil battles against the pandemic

Brasília, April 7 2021: Brazil’s response to the pandemic has long been plagued by conflicting legal and political policies. Monday morning, as parents got children ready for in-person school as per Rio mayor Eduardo Pae’s orders, news arrived of an overnight cnacellation of the order by a judge.

The country battles the pandemic amid confusion over SOPs and policies for schools, chruches, shops and restaurants. Maria Matos, mother of a pre-schooler said, “It’s a mess. The school only told parents about the ruling after class was already supposed to have started.” The ruling was again overturned on appeal the next day, sparking another legal battle.

Confusion reigns supreme as, Paes is locked in a policy dispute with interim governor Claudio Castro. Mayhem has resulted as governor has allowed bars and restaurants to remain open until 11:00 pm in Rio de Janeiro state, while the mayor has ordered them closed in Rio de Janeiro city, the state capital.

The capital isn’t the only place with conflciting orders and policies, at the federal level, President Jair Bolsonaro has fought expert advice on containing the coronavirus and vocally criticized lockdowns, protective measures and vaccines.

According to infectious diseases specialist, Jose David Urbaez, the has left state and local governments in the sprawling country are left to put together a messy patchwork of policy responses on their own.  “There’s no national coordination or guidelines from the health ministry… which has left a huge legal and scientific void,” he said,

Bolsonaro, who has faced widespread criticism over his handling of the outbreak, has already appointed and replaced 4 health ministers during the pandemic.There appears to be no nationwide definition in Brazil of what constitutes essential businesses and services, so every place makes its own rules based on local political and economic forces leading to chaos.

The president argues the economic damage of lockdowns is worse than the virus itself. The far-right president continues to rail against them, even as Covid-19 has claimed more than 330,000 lives in Brazil, second only to the United States.

Even though the Supreme Court ruled early in the pandemic that states and cities had the right to implement Covid-19 restrictions, the court itself is divided. Justice Kassio Nunes Marques who was appointed by Bolsonaro, ruled states and cities did not have the authority to suspend in-person religious services, deciding in favor of an evangelical Christian group. After which Justice Gilmar Mendes ruled the opposite, deciding against the center-right party in a case out of Sao Paulo state.

Football clubs in Brazil are caught up in the legal limbo too as court rulings alternately block or allow matches.Sao Paulo clubs Santos and Palmeiras  are due to face Argentine sides San Lorenzo and Defensa y Justicia, respectively, next week for South America’s Copa Libertadores and Recopa tournaments.The problem is, Sao Paulo state has barred sports events. So organizers moved the matches to Brasilia  where later a judge blocked them there too. Another judge later overturned the ruling, temporarily clearing the way for the matches to go ahead, unless there is another last-minute surprise.

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