The people who run South America’s major soccer tournament had a problem. Colombia and Argentina, who were to host the matches, pulled out. They said it was too dangerous during the Covid pandemic.
A new player stepped forward. “The Copa América will be in Brazil!” said the South American Soccer Federation head. He thanked Brazilan President Jair Bolsonaro for saving the day.
The backlash began. Brazil is reporting more than 60,000 new cases of Covid a day. There have been more than 270,000 deaths in the past three months.
The government has not controlled the epidemic or vaccinated the people. There are investigations and outrage.
“This is complete insanity,” said an expert who has been tracking the virus. “It is as if Rome were burning and Nero wanted a soccer game in the Coliseum to celebrate.”
A government panel said it would summon the head of the Soccer Federation to testify.
A Supreme Court Justice ordered the government to detail a plan for the soccer tournament. He called it a “public health emergency.”
A former health minister said, “The grave of the Americas is arriving faster than vaccines or common sense.”
It is all about Mr. Bolsonaro. Observers say he did not show any concern over the political risk to Brazilians. More than 465,000 people have died from the virus. It is the highest toll in the world behind the United States.
Bolsonaro explained his decision to host the games. He said, “From the beginning of the pandemic, I have been saying: I regret the deaths, but we have to live. This is a settled matter.”
The Brazilian government is taking steps for safety. It is limiting the number of players and staff. All must be vaccinated. There will not be any spectators. The government said the teams would play the games in Brasília and the states of Mato Grosso, Goiás, and Rio de Janeiro.
Intensive care beds are lagging in the four states. The percent of people fully vaccinated is 10.5 percent.
An expert said the problem is bigger than contagion. It is the false sense of security brought on by the games. “It is not responsible. It sends the message that the pandemic is under control. It says that everything is fine. We can go back to normal so that we can watch soccer. That is not the message we want to convey.”
It is not likely that many more people will get the virus or die because of the games in Brazil. It will be hard to trace. As in the United States a year ago, the country’s leader is trying to dismiss the virus. Whether President Bolsonaro will pay the price remains for the people to say in the next election.
The matches start on June 13, 2021.
Source: The New York Times June 2, 2021