Women's losses show ravages of virus in Brazil

MANAUS: thought of as a distant crisis.

Then Covid-19 killed five of her when the disease devastated her hometown, the largest city in the Brazilian Amazon.

A retiree, Sinimbu 76, has 12 children, more than 60 grandchildren, and is not even sure exactly how many great-grandchildren.

A devout Catholic, her faith has been tested as she has suffered a crushing loss after the new coronavirus.

In less than a month, the disease has claimed three of her children, her sister-in-law and brother-in-law.

I never thought that something like this would happen to me and my family. Imagine losing three children, said Sinimbu, a silver-haired woman whose face is barely showing her age, except for the sad, loss-filled eyes behind her glasses.

When the first died, God gave me the strength to continue. When the second died, I thought, 'I can't take it anymore.' But I went to my room and God gave me even more strength not to give up on life, he said.

Sinimbu, a widow who survives on her pension, lives in a modest house in a poor neighborhood of red brick houses and tin roofs on the outskirts of Manaus, the capital of the state of Amazonas in northwestern Brazil.

Her horror story began on April 5, with the death of her son Raimundo, a 58-year-old school teacher like her.

One of the three children who lived at home with Sinimbu, died in the hospital after being admitted to a respiratory infection that turned out to be Covid-19.

Two days later, he lost his sister-in-law Etelvina, 77.

The next bad news came on April 13, her daughter Iolanda, a 48-year-old merchant, had also died.

He had decided to continue working and traveling normally, Sinimbu said.

She did not realize the power of this disease, she added.

Eleven days later, his brother-in-law Luiz died at the age of 80.

Then, on May 1, her son Raniere Thiago, 52, was admitted to the hospital in serious condition and died shortly thereafter.

Only Raimundo and Iolanda tested positive for the new one and are included in the official figure of 1,413 deaths in Amazonas.

But the family is sure that all five relatives died from the virus.

Brazil, which is rapidly emerging as a flashpoint in the pandemic, has recorded more than 16,000 deaths and 240,000 cases so far.

Experts say insufficient proof means the actual numbers are likely much higher.

Sinimbu has not been examined, but believes he may have had the virus and is recovering.

In her house, she keeps a small altar where she prays to Our Lady of Carmo, the patron saint of Parintins, the small town in the Amazon where she grew up.

The colorfully painted house is also dotted with bottles of hand sanitizer at every turn, and all family members wear face masks.

People should be more careful with this disease. It is silent, Sinimbu said.