Brazilian president: We'll rely on our natural immunity

Even if you’re one of the people who has been dissatisfied with the coronavirus pandemic response from the White House, look on the bright side. Things could always be worse. For example, you could be living in Brazil. Their president, Jair Bolsonaro, is taking a decidedly different approach from virtually every other country. And that response is to do basically… nothing. That’s right. He’s declared that the “natural immunity” of Brazilians will see them through this “little flu” and everything will be just fine. (Associated Press)

On Thursday, Bolsonaro told reporters in the capital, Brasilia, that he feels Brazilians’ natural immunity will protect the nation.

“The Brazilian needs to be studied. He doesn’t catch anything. You see a guy jumping into sewage, diving in, right? Nothing happens to him. I think a lot of people were already infected in Brazil, weeks or months ago, and they already have the antibodies that help it not proliferate,” Bolsonaro said. “I’m hopeful that’s really a reality.”

A video titled “Brazil Cannot Stop” that circulated on social media drew a rebuke from Monica de Bolle, a Brazilian senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

Bolsonaro claims that he’s modeling his response after that of Donald Trump. I take it they don’t get CNN in Brazil? Trump just threatened to forcibly quarantine one of the biggest cities in the world.

While I’m not sure if vivid descriptions of Brazilians jumping into sewage is the sort of image that the country’s tourism board is going for, their president is placing a substantially large wager here. He’s banking on herd immunity to carry them through, somehow mixed with a belief that Brazilians have a stronger, superior natural immunity than everyone else. It’s natural for a president to want to display pride in his fellow countrymen, but I’m pretty sure there’s no medical science to back up that claim.

He’ll be finding out soon enough. Brazil is already closing in on 4,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than 100 have already died. If he’s telling people to disregard the social distancing and isolation precautions being urged by his provincial governors and everyone is back out on the streets, those numbers will swell.

Or will they? We keep hearing that the novel coronavirus will be less prevalent in the warmer summer months. And it’s currently late summer in Brazil. As crazy as it sounds, Brazilians may have to hope for some sort of benefit from that fact. Looking over their statistics, it’s a bit early to tell. They didn’t begin recording any infected patients until roughly three weeks ago. As of yesterday, of the 3,784 active, confirmed cases of the disease, 3,488 (92%) reported mild symptoms while 296 (8%) were listed in serious or critical condition.

Meanwhile, The Atlantic has declared Bolsonaro the “leader of the coronavirus denial movement.” History will be the judge of this (along with the country’s voters at the next election), but if the wheels start coming off entirely, Bolsonaro will be seen as doing far worse than simply having an “insufficient response.” He’s actively criticizing his governors who imposed lockdowns to slow the spread of the virus, accusing them of destroying the country’s economy.

If the death toll surges dramatically, Brazil’s president will be taking almost all of the blame. In the meantime, for the sake of the people of Brazil, we should all be hoping that he’s not as entirely crazy as he sounds and the summer heat keeps the spread of the epidemic to a minimum.