Brazil risks 'economic collapse' over virus lockdown: minister

Brasília (AFP)


Brazil could face "economic collapse" in a month's time due to stay-at-home measures to stem the coronavirus outbreak, with food shortages and "social disorder," Economy Minister Paulo Guedes warned Thursday.

"Within about 30 days, there may start to be shortages on (store) shelves and production may become disorganized, leading to a system of economic collapse, of social disorder," said Guedes.

"This is a serious alert," he added, speaking alongside far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, who opposes stay-at-home measures.

Brazil is the epicenter of the pandemic in Latin America, with more than 135,000 cases and 9,146 deaths.

Those figures have been climbing at an alarming rate. And experts say under-testing means the real numbers are likely far higher.

Hospitals are nearly out of intensive care beds in the hardest-hit areas, including Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Manaus, the biggest city in the Amazon region, which has had to turn to refrigerator trucks and mass graves to cope with the number of dead.

Bolsonaro, who has compared the new coronavirus to a "little flu," regularly speaks out against stay-at-home measures by state and local authorities, saying they are unnecessarily damaging Latin America's biggest economy.

He said he understood "the virus problem" and believed that "we must save lives."

"But there is a problem that's worrying us more and more... and that's the issue of jobs, of the stalled economy," Bolsonaro added.

"Fighting the virus shouldn't do more damage than the virus itself."

Because of the pandemic, Brazil, which was just coming off a massive recession in 2015 and 2016, is facing an economic contraction of 5.3 percent this year, the International Monetary Fund forecasts.