But the officials never instituted a lockdown. Cases and deaths soared. People stopped isolating, choosing instead to pack beach boardwalks on weekends. And the warning turned out to be just one more exit ramp that Brazil declined to take on its way toward becoming the second-most disease-ravaged country in the world.
Latin America’s largest country has so far registered more than 888,000 coronavirus cases and nearly 44,000 deaths, second on both counts only to the United States. But while other countries have been through steep curves and are now focused on preparations for a possible second wave, Brazil can’t even get past its first.
What’s happening here appears to be unique on a global level. Despite soaring numbers, officials never implemented measures largely successful elsewhere in the world. There has been no national lockdown. No national testing campaign. No agreed-upon plan. Insufficient health-care expansion. Instead, the hardest-hit cities are now deciding to open up, throwing open the doors to malls and churches, at a time when the country is routinely posting more than 30,000 new cases a day – five times more than Italy reported at the peak of its outbreak.