Brazil and Columbia struggle with handling COVID-19
Students from Brazil and Columbia reflect on the effects of the pandemic
Since the beginning of 2020, countries around the world have battled COVID-19. With countries like South Korea and Singapore imposing a quarantine ruling during the pandemic, these countries found themselves in a drastically different place compared to pre-pandemic due to their response to COVID-19.
Brazil is one country that had a rocky start when the pandemic hit. Julia Marcelino, a highschool junior in Brazil, explained how Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro’s initial reaction to the virus confused Brazilians.
“The main problem is our president,” Julia said. “The president has influence over a lot of people across Brazil — we have programs on the TV where messages from the president are broadcasted. At first, he told everyone that the coronavirus was just like a flu, that we should go out to the malls and shop. That was until a few weeks later he got the virus and claimed that his condition would be improved by hydroxychloroquine, which we now know is rather ineffective in combating the virus.”
While public schools in Brazil like Julia’s remain closed, she has seen some private schools open up for students again.
“On TikTok, I’ve seen [Brazillians] go back to school,” Julia said. “I go to a private school, but my mom was telling me that if public schools don’t [return], then private schools won’t either. Public schools don’t even have things like hand sanitizer gel, so it would be a really difficult situation for them to go back. Personally, I barely go out [and] I hardly leave my bed. Malls and shops are open, but they’ve lowered the maximum number of people that can go in.”
Julia’s mother, Victoria Marcelino, is a teacher in Brazil and she says the learning environment has changed.
“It’s become more difficult because I’m a teacher so I’ve been teaching online for almost seven months,” Victoria said. “I feel like people don’t seem to trust each other and are less friendly.”
Victoria echoes her daughter’s sentiments on the mishandling of COVID-19 by the Brazilian government and stressed how items like food are more expensive in Brazil after the virus hit. As far as the response of Brazilian citizens goes, Victoria says that Brazilian residents “were not given the right advice” which was “due to the corruption in Brazil.”
According to Julia, the poorer areas in the Northeast of Brazil have been hit the hardest by the virus. Victoria attributes this to poor public health care in the North. Where Victoria and Julia live — in the South — COVID-19 does not pose as much of a threat. Still, her school will remain closed until the end of the Brazilian school year in November.
Unlike Julia, junior Andrés Carranza is able to do in-person schooling since moving to Brazil from Homestead high school after the end of last school year. While some of his classmates choose to participate in class virtually, about one third of the school, he estimates, is going in-person.
“Everything is pretty normal here. Everyone goes outside, but every single person wears a mask. Wherever you go, you have [to use] hand sanitizer and alcohol. It’s pretty strict.” Carranza said. “At my school, you get there in the morning and they take your temperature and they disinfect your hands. You cannot be closer than 1 meter to someone [else].”
Caranzza agreed with Julia and Victoria about how Brazil handled the pandemic.
“Compared to Brazil, whose president [downplayed] the virus, I think Colombia has handled it much better. There are some people pushing to open more than others, but overall there is not really an argument here,” Caranzza said.
Colombia has had 67,000 confirmed cases in the last week: approaching their previous record of weekly cases from August 9th through 15th when they had 80,851 confirmed cases, according to Johns Hopkins University.
“We do have [a lot] of cases here, relatively, but personally I think they handled it pretty well, but the unemployment rate is [high], so others will say it [wasn’t handled] that well,” Caranzza said.
After leaving Cupertino, Caranzza spent two weeks in Florida before he was able to fly to Colombia.
“The Bay Area was pretty good, but in Florida, nobody cared about anything. It was pretty much like there wasn’t a pandemic,” Caranzza said. “ In Colombia, the culture is ‘take care of yourself.’ Everyone is in it together. People are not pitted against each other like in America. It’s a difference of culture.”