Authorities of the Brazilian town of Guajará-Mirim have asked the Bolivian government to provide residents with COVID-19 tests, stating that they have been abandoned by their own government at the height of the country’s COVID-19 crisis.
Guajará-Mirim is a small city on the border with Bolivia, in the Amazonian state of Rondônia. Authorities hold regular bilateral meetings with the Municipal authorities of Guayaramerín, which is the neighboring town on the Bolivian side of the border. It was at the latest of these meetings that the Brazilian Municipal authorities made the request.
Janneth Cuéllar, President of the Guayaramerín Municipal Council, spoke to Bolivia TV on Sunday, April 4th, to relay the message from the Brazilian counterparts, saying; “We are submitting a note to the Ministry of Health informing of this request that they (Guajará-Mirim authorities) have made, they’ve asked if their Brazilian citizens can take Covid tests on the Bolivian side”.
Most of the population, on both sides, depend economically on commerce at the border. However, since April 1st, the land border has been closed by Bolivia due to the failure of the Bolsonaro government to contain Covid. An exception has been made for commercial traders bringing goods into the country. To enter Bolivia, those people must present a negative Covid test, taken within the last 72 hours.
Authorities of Guajará-Mirim say that this is impossible for its residents because the Bolsonaro government has not provided the town with any tests and private tests which are available are too expensive for the local population.
It’s for this reason, that they’ve asked if residents of the town can access the Antigen Covid tests which are available free of charge in Bolivia, supplied by the government of President Luis Arce.
Bolivia’s Ministry of Health has yet to respond to this request, but has expressed concern over the possibility of Brazil’s increasingly desperate health crisis spilling over the border. So far, there are no confirmed cases of the Brazilian P1 variant in the country, but there are numerous suspected cases that are being closely monitored. Local populations that border Brazil have seen a spike in infections and some authorities, such as Guayaramerin, have imposed their own lockdowns.
The situation in Brazil has been described as a disaster. In the last 24 hours over 1,200 people lost their lives to Covid. Brazil now has around one third of the world’s total Covid deaths.
Brazilian journalist Rafael Sanz, of, Correio da Cidadania, told Kawsachun News that, “This has left the country as a hostage of a political project that neither head nor tail, we can’t even go out to protest and demand their ousting, the threat of infection is that high (..) In February, a report was published by the Research Centre of Sanitary Law, of the University of Sao Paolo, stating that the [Bolsonaro] government deliberately worked against efforts to combat the pandemic. One example of this was in September 2020, when Brazil had the opportunity to buy vaccines from China, the UK, and elsewhere, but chose not to do so.”
The second Covid wave is ebbing in most of Bolivia. La Paz registered just 36 new cases on Easter Sunday, one of the lowest numbers since the start of the pandemic. However, of Bolivia’s nine Departments, the two with the largest borders with Brazil, Beni and Santa Cruz, saw 323 cases between them, accounting for 69% of the country’s total cases over the last 24 hours.
For that reason, on March 30th, President Luis Arce instructed that regions bordering Brazil be prioritized in vaccine allocation, as well as for distribution of other health supplies from the central government.