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Coronavirus: “The Copa América in Brazil is unacceptable for public health and may accelerate the third wave” | sports

Philippe Coutinho takes a free kick in the Copa América 2019, at the Corinthians arena.
Philippe Coutinho takes a free kick in the Copa América 2019, at the Corinthians arena.Chris Brunskill/Fantasista / Getty

In recent days, Brazil has exceeded 460,000 deaths and 16.5 million infected by covid-19. It has also detected variants of the Brazilian and Indian strains in its territory, has delays in vaccination and a rise in hospital occupancy. The scenario worries the experts, who foresee the imminence of a third ole even more deadly than the previous ones. Still, the government of Jair Bolsonaro, a pandemic denier, celebrates the decision to host the Copa América, after Argentina and Colombia declined to host.

While Bolsonaro’s critics hope that Brazil’s Supreme Court will ban the main South American sporting event, scheduled for June and July, experts and epidemiologists warn of its consequences. Bruno Gualano, professor and researcher at the Faculty of Medicine of the University of São Paulo (USP) warns that “the Copa América may accelerate the third wave of covid.” “Holding this tournament in Brazil is absolutely irrational, unacceptable from a public health point of view, and it could only happen in a country that does not respect life,” he says.

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The most serious thing, Gualano remarks, is that Brazil has not adopted testing and case tracking as a policy to combat the pandemic. “If you don’t do tests, you don’t know the extent of the problem. In the end we will only see the tip of the iceberg, which will be the increase in deaths and overcrowded ICUs ”, says the specialist.

Gualano coordinates, since last year, a study group at USP that seeks to measure the impacts that soccer has, with all its protocols, on the Brazilian health crisis. In a study published in March 2021, the group analyzed tests conducted on more than 4,000 male and female athletes from eight tournaments held by the Paulista Federation of Soccer (FPF) in 2020. It concluded that the infection rate among these players (11.7%) is equivalent to that of health professionals working on the front lines of the pandemic.

There were 25 outbreaks detected only in São Paulo football – Qatar football, which was used as a comparison because it had a similar reality to Brazil, did not have any outbreak among 549 athletes and the rate of positive cases was 4.4%. “It is important to remember that this study was done in 2020, before the second wave, before the strain variants and before the relaxation of restrictions. And only in São Paulo. Everything indicates that in 2021 it was much worse ”, clarifies Gualano.

For the expert, the investigation shows that the protocols and sanitary measures adopted by football to keep it running “were of no use.” The opening also influenced the increase in broadcasts in society, taking into account only the data of the players directly involved in the sport. However, these protocols are the argument used by the Government so that the hundreds of people who participate in the delegations of ten South American teams, as well as all the staff and the press responsible for working on an event of these proportions, attend the matches. in different states of Brazil.

Short-term vaccinations

Conmebol closed an agreement to receive 50,000 doses of the vaccine from the Chinese laboratory Sinovac and thus immunize the teams and delegations that compete in its continental tournaments. Atlético-MG and Atlético-GO, which play South American competitions, were the two Brazilians who have already immunized their athletes with the Conmebol doses. “It is an ethical problem, because these boys are cutting the line for the circus to pass,” says Gualano, who recalls that, although the players are dangerous vectors of transmission, they are not part of risk groups, while many of these groups have not even received the first dose in Brazil.

In the case of the Brazilian team, a large part of the delegation was not vaccinated two weeks before the start of the competition. As they will be immunized next week they will not achieve adequate immunity before the America’s Cup. “Everything is a symbolic measure, which conveys a false sense of security. Summarize how the priorities are soccer, the bar, the mall and not ICUs or intubation drugs. The protocols are just a bait ”, concludes the researcher.

Regardless of vaccines, the position taken by Conmebol during the pandemic is the subject of new criticism. In the final of the Copa Libertadores, held at the Maracaná stadium on January 30, the entity allowed the presence of 5,000 people in the stands – a precedent that can serve for the opening in the final of the Copa América, which must be played in the same stadium. More recently, Conmebol forced the holding of matches of the same competition in Colombia, where Atlético Mineiro and América de Cali players stopped the match due to tear gas from the repression of social protests that took place abroad ; and in Argentina, bypassing the federal decree that paralyzed local soccer during the last days of May.

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