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Covid-19: diary of a flight from Argentina to Brazil

What virus? Business as usual at Rio's airport



Camila Pierobon

Camila Pierobon is a Research Associate at CEBRAP (São Paulo). She wrote this piece in a text to a friend after arriving home in Brazil on 18 March. It is published here with the author’s permission

The chaos where this crazy and irresponsible lunatic is taking us is unblievable. Bolsonaro has to be shut down NOW! Yesterday I needed to leave Argentina because the country’s air space was about to be closed. I’m home, luckily! But it is impossible to ignore the differences in procedures adopted at Brazilian and Argentine airports, which may seem small, but are essential to understand how the governments of their respective countries are facing this pandemic. Here in Brazil the notion of prevention to avoid chaos simply does not exist. to avoid chaos doesn’t exist!
Argentina: at Argentine airports, only essential services were open. Duty free stores closed! Airport offiocials wore gloves and face masks. To get through immigration, alcohol gel for me and the staff: for example, the officer cleaned his hands with gel alcohol after he took my passport. I had to put my thumb on an optical reader and then use the alcohol provided by them to clean my hands. Recommendations posted at the airport: seek medical attention if you present any possible symptoms of coronavirus or if you have had contact with someone who has symptoms or has come from Europe or Asia. All travellers entering undergo a health check and have their temperature taken. Anyone who was in the country and had arrived from countries with cases of the virus had to go into quarantine – as in my case.

Brazil: Tom Jobim Airport (RIOgaleão), Rio de Janeiro. To my surprise, everything open, duty free working normally, that is, no alcohol gel in sight while everyone had to walk between the merchandise on display. Airport staff seemed to have the choice whether to wear masks or not – most did not, and I saw none wearing gloves either before or after disembarking. During the flight, we filled out a form on which we reported our state of health, to be delivered to the passport officer at immigration. The form required us to say which cities we had visited in the previous 14 days. The immigration officer took my passport, returned it, didn’t clean his hands. I tried to hand in my form, but he said he didn’t need it. I cleaned my hands with the alcohol in my bag. On the plane, two people with a cough, one of them was sick and almost passed out. The recommendation we heard on arrival at the airport was: seek medical assistance if you have had contact with people with symptoms of coronavirus from Asia. No reference to any European country, which has been the epicentre of the transmission of the virus for weeks. No action to check the health of people entering the country. I have quarantined myself on account of going through two international airports.

These seem small things, but they are not. While the federal government is getting more and more infected (17 people with covid-19 confirmed) and as long as we have this irresponsible lunatic leading the country, denying recognized scientific evidence regarding coronavirus, denying the spread of contamination, denying its gravity, we will not be able to deal with this pandemia. Instead, we face a future of chaos!!!

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LAB adds: Some Covid-19 information now appears on the Airport’s website (20 March). It is still fairly basic:

Part of the official information on the airport’s website.

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