RIO – A study by the Institute for Applied Economic Research (Ipea) points out that the effect of legal measures of social distance against the new coronavirus on the behavior of the Brazilian population reduced from the end of March. The mapping indicated that social isolation fell more than the relaxation of the rigor of these measures. The researchers warn that distancing policies have become progressively decentralized, which can lead to a disorderly and chaotic exit from quarantine.

Ipea analyzed the periods from 23 to 27 March and from 4 to 8 May. While the severity of the index of legal distance measures adopted by states and municipalities fell by 10%, social isolation fell by 20% when comparing the two periods.

The data indicate that other factors also influence how much people stay at home. The list includes the level of awareness of the importance of isolation; how much they fear being infected; how governments demand compliance with legal measures; and even the climate or weather in a particular region.

Ipea points out that the distance measures increasingly been a response to the seriousness of the epidemic, instead of a preventive measure that would avoid a more serious contagion scenario.

“If this trend continues, it is likely that states and municipalities with lower numbers of deaths will relax the measures or do not increase their rigor, while those with higher numbers adopt or maintain restrictive measures”, says Ipea.

According to Ipea, states that relaxed the isolation measures (such as Santa Catarina, Goiás and Minas Gerais), should suffer less severe economic consequences in the short term. However, if transmission rates increase and the health system is overburdened, that benefit can be quickly lost, warns the study.

The study highlights the adoption of a decentralized format of distancing policies between federal, state and municipal governments. Increasingly, states delegate power to city halls, which increases the chances of a disorderly exit from the forties, Ipea points out.

The researchers suggest that the quarantine exit should follow objective and standardized criteria – taking into account rates of virus transmission, numbers of cases and deaths and availability of ICU beds, for example – in order to avoid a disorderly return.

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