BRASILIA, Aug. 5 (Xinhua) -- The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly impacted Brazilian society and economy, which is certain to dominate the political debate ahead of the general elections in October 2022, said political scientist Paulo Kramer.
"The impact on the economy, as well as health, will be the great subject of the presidential election debate next year," Kramer, retired professor at the University of Brasilia, told Xinhua in a recent interview, noting that COVID-19 came at a time when Brazil "was preparing to resume growth," while the paralysis of many activities caused recession and unemployment.
As infections and deaths increased sharply in the first months of 2021, Brazil's confirmed cases reached 10 million in February, and the deaths exceeded half a million in June, according to the World Health Organization.
With more than 20 million confirmed cases and almost 560,000 deaths as of Wednesday, the South American country has the world's second-highest death toll after the United States, and the third-largest caseload after the United States and India.
Economically, Brazil's gross domestic product (GDP) in 2020 contracted by 4.1 percent due to lockdowns, followed by a strong recovery so far this year.
One of the "positive legacies of the pandemic," Kramer said, is that authorities and politicians will be more aware of increasing the budget of the Unified Health System (SUS).
"Brazil does not spend little on health matters, but it is a significantly smaller slice of GDP than that of developed countries, so there has to be a financial and institutional strengthening of the SUS," he said.
The pandemic's aftermath will dominate not only the presidential debates, but also regional elections, he said. "The campaigns for governors, deputies and senators will address the health issue with concrete proposals."
Kramer also warned of the pandemic's impact on education, citing a recent World Bank study, which showed that the estimated learning losses in Latin America and the Caribbean, a result of the suspension of classes during the pandemic, will directly translate into human capital losses and a less productive labor force, eventually affecting the overall productivity and economic development of countries.
"Educational problems have an impact on children and young people, and in turn this will have a long-term impact on the performance of the economy and productivity. If confirmed, Brazil could see very large productivity losses," he said.
Brazil may be entering a new phase of the pandemic, marked by an intense circulation but lower hospitalization and mortality rates, due to the more transmissible Delta variant and the immunization of part of the most vulnerable population, according to Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, Brazil's state-run medical research facility.
As of Monday, Brazil had administered more than 142.6 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, and over 41.5 million people had been fully vaccinated, since the start of the national immunization campaign in January, according to the health ministry.
The government expected all Brazilians to be immunized by the end of 2021, Health Minister Marcelo Queiroga said in May.
"I think a very focused and consistent debate is going to be necessary on how to overcome the negative educational, economic and social consequences of the pandemic," said Kramer. Enditem