Rocinha is the largest favela in Rio de Janeiro. Its inhabitants have the best views in the world, but not the best living conditions.
Sebastau Suarez built his home with his own hands in 40 years on top of the favela. It is comfortable. Last April, he returned with a fever, aches and pains that he thought he had contracted from a young colleague at his construction site. He fell seriously ill. Nobody knew what he had.
He infected his wife, who, to a lesser extent, contrived to take care of him. Their son Otavio, who lives in another area, came to help his parents because they were very weak – Sebastao was close to death – and he also caught her. Three other family members also had COVID-19. They survived.
A year later, the father and son are still showing symptoms of the disease and are still unable to return to normal life and activities.
Toninha, and she is not the only one, is convinced that if they went to the hospital, they would die. The infection was stronger there than anywhere else.
We’ve never had so many orphans here– says Toninha, who has lost a neighbor. The residents of Rocinha could rely only on themselves and on the help of a volunteer doctor, doctor Anna.
Wearing a mask and keeping your distance are difficult instructions to follow in this maze of dwellings as compact as they are overcrowded. And not everyone believes enough in the severity of the pandemic.
Second wave among retired soldiers
Retired Colonel Valdemiro José de Britto was an energetic 78-year-old man, proud of his career, proud of his medals. But this pipe smoker had a hard time putting up with the mask. In October 2020, he fell ill and unwittingly ended up in a hospital where they did not want to keep him because his symptoms were not convincing enough.
If they left him the first time, he would never die– says his daughter Rosana Padoim de Britto. This prestigious military hospital, the treatment of which the colonel devoted his whole life, during a pandemic is just a shadow of himself. One nurse for three floors, just enough. When Brito – the colonel’s nickname – was accepted there, it was too late.
He was admitted to the hospital on Monday; seven days later he died. The next week, my uncle, a naval officer who was 10 years younger than my father, also mask resistant, entered the prestigious Brazilian naval hospital, was intubated on the second day and died on the third.
Chloroquine was offered as a medicine to two former officers; they refused. Their cousins, supporters of President Jair Bolsonaro, took chloroquine as a preventive measure, following the advice of their head of state. They all contracted COVID-19, says Britto’s Rosana Padoim.
The second wave is more violent. In February, after summer vacation and carnival, the P1 variant caused havoc in the Amazon and spread to the rest of the country. The peak was reached in April, the worst month of the pandemic, with 4,000 deaths a day. It took more than five months for 100,000 to 200,000 deaths, just over two months to reach 300,000, and just 37 days to break the 400,000 mark.
The Brazilians, worn out by more or less fulfilled containment orders and counter-orders, are losing their vigilance. There are fears that they are wrong because vaccinations do not seem to be effective. Some are even worse.