In silence and holding crosses, nurses march on presidential palace

Protesters demanded better working conditions, criticized Bolsonaro and defended social distancing

Translated by: Ítalo Piva

Brasil de Fato | Brasília (DF) |
Around 60 nursing professionals gathered outside the presidential palace in Brasília - Scarlett Rocha/Mídia NINJA

A group of around 60 nurses protested in front of the presidential palace in Brasília, on Friday, May 1st, to call attention to some of the issues surrounding the coronavirus pandemic in the country. In silence, dressed in work clothes, wearing masks and holding paper crosses, they remember the Brazilians who have died from the disease, especially health professionals. Working conditions are the main grievances brought forth by the protesters, who also had black bands tied around their arms, a symbol of mourning for their colleagues. 

Suderlan Sabino, from the Nurses Union of the Federal District and board member of the Brazilian Association of Nurses, affirms that the march is a way to reinforce the chorus of social distancing, as well as criticize president Jair Bolsonaro on the problem. The head of the executive has given multiple public statements denying the severity of the pandemic and minimizing recorded deaths. 

“At this moment, we want to show that we, the health professionals, are not alone, that we have many other colleagues on the front lines and we cannot stay silent when hearing people say that this doesn’t exist, because we witness it daily. We are on the front lines and see many colleagues leaving work, where they stop being health workers to become patients”, said Sabino. 

The illness has a high degree of contagion among nursing professionals. There still isn’t any accurate data about the number of deaths among them, but a study done by the Federal Nursing Council (Cofen) identified, on Monday, March 27th,  shows a total of 4.602 nurses that have been removed from their posts suspected of having covid-19.

The study mapped the situation of 5.780 health institutions, but the organization estimates that the number of nurses with coronavirus is much higher, since the study cannot encompass all of the workers in the segment. Up till now, the oversight effort only contemplates around 27% of registered nurses. 

The high levels of infection are not only associated with the spread of the pandemic, and the complex dynamics of the virus, but also to inadequacies in the supply of personal protective equipment (PPEs). According to Cofen, more than 4.500 complaints related to this lack have been filed. “It is necessary to give them better working conditions”, defends Sabino. 


The director highlights that, during the protest, participants took several different precautions since there are guidelines from health authorities to avoid large gatherings, to help stop the dissemination of the coronavirus.

“We were wearing cloth masks so as to not waste the disposable ones used by our teams, we stayed 2 meters apart and none of the colleagues shook hands or greeted each other up close”, Sabino pointed out.


The protest came to an end after the intervention of supporters of president Jair Bolsonaro, who were dressed in Brazil’s national colors green and yellow, and tried to stop the march and assaulted the nurses taking part.

“We were ambushed by them, who were accusing us and cursing at us, saying we are not professionals, claiming we were being paid to say that the virus existed”, relates the head of the Brazilian Association of Nurses, adding that he regrets the fact. The march was completely dispersed after the arrival of the police.

Edited by: Camila Maciel