Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); }

Thiago Firmino sprays disinfectant in an alley to help contain the spread of the new coronavirus, at the Santa Marta slum in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday, April 10, 2020. Firmino, who works as a tourist guide in the favela, helped organize a group to buy sanitization equipment with donated funds and are now disinfecting the alleyways of the favela.

Leo Correa/The Associated Press

When coronavirus hit and tourists stopped coming to Thiago Firmino’s Rio de Janeiro favela tour, he decided to act. Unwilling to wait for officials to react, he donned a white suit and set about disinfecting the streets of the Santa Marta slum.

Having watched with horror as the virus spread round the world, Firmino, 39, launched a scheme to sanitize the Santa Marta favela.

Dressed as a “Ghostbuster,” Firmino leads the latest in a growing number of community-led programs to combat the spread of a virus that many expect to wreak havoc in Brazil’s poor, densely-packed slums.

Story continues below advertisement

“I wouldn’t call it heroic, but we have a ferocious attitude,” said Firmino as he took a break from spraying the stairways and back alleys of Santa Marta to the applause of quarantined residents.

“The favela is always forgotten. Anything that happens in the city, the favela is always the last to receive any benefit. Healthcare is precarious and the question of public hygiene and trash is also precarious.”

Around 4,000 people live in Santa Marta, one of Rio’s most iconic favelas.

Set behind the beachside neighbourhood of Botafogo, it boasts spectacular views of the Sugar Loaf Mountain and even a statue of Michael Jackson, who filmed the video to his song “They Don’t Care About Us” in Santa Marta.

Firmino’s wife, Wilcieide Miranda, said that so far there were no known cases of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus, in the slum.

She and her husband rely on community donations to undertake their sanitation work.

“Tourism is the first to stop and the last to return,” said Firmino. “We are doing this voluntary action with residents so we can take care of ourselves, because I would rather be without work than without my life.”

Story continues below advertisement

This week, authorities reported the first six coronavirus deaths in Rio’s favelas, which are often controlled by drug gangs and violent self-defence militias.

Last month, Reuters reported that gangsters had imposed curfews in some of the city’s slums to fight the spread of the coronavirus.

On Wednesday, Brazilian Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta said he would talk with the gangsters who act as the slums’ de facto rulers about how to best tackle the virus.

“They are also human beings and they need to collaborate, help, participate,” he said.

So far, 1,057 people have died from COVID-19 in Brazil, with 19,638 confirmed cases, according to the latest official figures on Friday. Nearly 150 people have died in Rio state, where there are 2,464 cases, the figures show.

Coronavirus information
Coronavirus information
The Zero Canada Project provides resources to help you manage your health, your finances and your family life as Canada reopens.
Visit the hub

In the interests of public health and safety, our coronavirus news articles are free for anyone to access. However, The Globe depends on subscription revenue to support our journalism. If you are able, please subscribe to globeandmail.com. If you are already a subscriber, thank you for your support.

Your subscription helps The Globe and Mail provide readers with critical news at a critical time. Thank you for your continued support. We also hope you will share important coronavirus news articles with your friends and family. In the interest of public health and safety, all our coronavirus news articles are free for anyone to access.

Follow related topics

Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies