October 26, 2020

In Rio’s favelas, a physiotherapist witnesses Covid-19’s long-lasting effects

Issued on: 23/09/2020 – 07:45

In Rio de Janeiro’s poorest suburbs, Covid-19 tests have been hard to come by. Yet many residents have suffered the virus’s symptoms for months, forcing one physiotherapist to adapt her practice in response. FRANCE 24’s correspondents brings us inside her clinic.

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In the Complexo do Alemao favela, nestled among the northern suburbs of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Covid-19 is still spreading. Testing, tracing and treatment have not kept pace.

So Monica, a longtime physiotherapist and founder of the Movement and Life Institute (Instituto Movimento & Vida), has seen the consequences first hand.  

A patient she was originally treating for a knee injury now has difficulty breathing. She was never diagnosed, but had symptoms typical of Covid-19 a few months ago: “A lot of aches in my body… I needed support to be able to walk,” she says.

Monica’s work offers insights into the long-term side effects of the virus, which remain under-studied.

“Muscle pain, weakness, difficulty breathing – nobody talks about the aftermath of Covid,” she says. “I’ve been studying this since March. I always knew it was going to hit us.”

Altogether, Monica has 120 patients with such side effects waiting for treatment. For some, her clinic is their only source of healthcare.

To deal with the influx, Monica has been preparing a new “post-Covid” wing in her clinic. But the Institute relies on donations, and with virus safety measures adding to her expenses, she worries it may have to close.

Since last week, free testing has been available to residents of the favela. So far, a quarter of the tests have come back positive.

Click on the video player above to watch the full report.