Dec 04, 2020 10:59 AM

Fiocruz warns Rio de Janeiro could face coronavirus collapse

A study released by biological research organization Fiocruz warns that the public health network in the city of Rio de Janeiro is close to collapse due to a recent rise in Covid-19 cases.

Experts identified an increase in mortality rates around the holiday season. This Wednesday, 172 people were waiting for public intensive care beds in the metropolitan region of Rio de Janeiro. Meanwhile, 98 percent of ICU beds on the private health system are also occupied.

On Wednesday, the state health authorities reported 81 deaths in just 24 hours, in addition to 3,000 new cases in Rio de Janeiro.

Meanwhile, the state of Rio de Janeiro will begin a new procedure for Covid-19 tests this Friday, allowing citizens to schedule tests through a smartphone app. The program does not constitute mass testing however, as users will be screened by a questionnaire, and only those suspected of having coronavirus infections will be invited for tests.

The initiative will first be implemented in the cities of São Gonçalo and Volta Redonda. As estimated by the State Department of Health, it will be possible to offer up to 1,500 RT-PCR exams per day.

Dec 03, 2020 02:57 PM

IMF recommends Brazil to continue emergency aid

In its annual report, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) recommended that Brazil maintain its public spending cap, while remaining able to give more economic support to face the crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

In other words, the fund warns that fiscal responsibility cannot be achieved at the expense of the abrupt withdrawal of measures to support the economy amid the pandemic, such as the government’s emergency coronavirus aid program.

IMF analysts expect Brazil to grow 2.8 percent in 2021, after a 5.8-percent contraction in 2020. In the report, the IMF positively assessed the government’s measures to face the pandemic, saying that the country gave a quick response to the challenges.

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Dec 03, 2020 02:54 PM

São Paulo Governor wants to start vaccination before federal government

São Paulo Governor João Doria announced on Thursday that his administration will begin vaccinating his state against Covid-19 as early as January. He says São Paulo will not wait until March, as is forecast by the federal government’s vaccination plan.

“Why start in March if we can do it already in January? […] Are we going to lose another 60,000 lives before starting immunization?” he said.

According to Mr. Doria, 46 million doses of CoronaVac will be available for distribution in São Paulo by the middle of January 2021. 

Today, São Paulo received a shipment of inputs for the production of more than 1 million doses of the CoronaVac vaccine.

This week, Dimas Covas, director of the São Paulo-based Butantan Biological Institute, affirmed that the CoronaVac vaccine should be ready for distribution to the population at the beginning of 2021.

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Dec 03, 2020 12:02 PM

Santa Catarina announces curfew to contain coronavirus spread

The southern state of Santa Catarina will enforce a curfew for the next 15 days as a way of curbing the spread of Covid-19. 

The move follows a decision by the neighboring state of Paraná, which enforces a curfew between 11 pm and 5 am.

Local authorities reinforced the necessity of using face masks — which are mandatory throughout Brazil — and limited the capacity of public transport to 70 percent. 

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Dec 03, 2020 11:58 AM

Army Commander tests positive for the coronavirus

The Army reported on Wednesday that General Edson Pujol has tested positive for the coronavirus, adding that he is isolating at home and currently asymptomatic. Gen. Pujol was admitted to Brasília’s Armed Forces Hospital on Saturday to undergo a surgical procedure, when a pre-op coronavirus test came back positive.

A recent report revealed that Army barracks have become coronavirus hotbeds, with the military proceeding with mandatory military service activities during the pandemic. Almost 20 percent of coronavirus tests applied to both instructors and trainees until September 10 came back positive for SARS-CoV-2.

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Dec 02, 2020 05:11 PM

Universities’ return to classes lasts for just a few hours

This afternoon, the Jair Bolsonaro administration issued an ordinance calling for a return to in-person classes in federal universities as early as January. But the norm was revoked just hours later, following strong opposition from teachers’ unions, which complained that they had not been consulted by the Education Ministry.

The timing of the ordinance was also unfortunate, as Brazil is going through what some experts believe to be a second coronavirus wave, with deaths and cases rising in recent weeks. University rectors argue that in-person classes should only return when it is possible to ensure that classrooms will not become hotbeds for the virus. The University of Brasília issued a statement saying it “refused to put students in danger.”

Speaking to CNN Brasil, Education Minister Milton Ribeiro said he wants to “listen to the academic community.” He added that “schools were not prepared [for such a quick return], there was no planning for that.”

In-person classes in Brazilian universities have been suspended since March due to the pandemic. Their return would affect over 2.3 million people, including students, teachers, and staff members, according to government data.

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Dec 02, 2020 11:47 AM

Brazil to receive Oxford vaccine in January, says Health Minister

Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello announced that Brazil will receive 15 million doses of the potential Covid-19 vaccine being manufactured by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca in January. In addition, the production agreement in place with biological research organization Fiocruz and the Covax consortium will grant the country another 300 million doses over next year. 

Speaking before Congress’ coronavirus committee, Mr. Pazuello said other producers could not provide a sufficient amount of vaccines to immunize the entire Brazilian population. Furthermore, AstraZeneca’s vaccine is the cheapest option available. 

Mr. Pazuello said vaccination will not be mandatory, unless the Supreme Court decides otherwise — as we highlighted in today’s Daily Briefing

The Health Minister said that the ministry’s vaccination plan — explained in detail in today’s Daily Briefing — may change according to distribution conditions.  

He also said the ministry is alert to the possibility of a second infection wave, but argued that the recent spike in cases seen by researchers is a normal oscillation of the pandemic, likely due to November’s municipal elections. 

Mr. Pazuello was brought to the committee to provide explanations regarding reports that millions of unused RT-PCR tests purchased by the federal government are set to expire at the end of the year.

The Health Minister said these tests were approved with shorter expiration dates of only eight months, as a way to make sure they would be released quickly. He claims the kits are usable for up to three years.

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Dec 02, 2020 10:18 AM

Military service becomes Covid-19 spreading hub

A report by newspaper Folha de S.Paulo reveals an outbreak of infections in army headquarters in São Paulo, as the Armed Forces proceeded with mandatory military service during the pandemic. 

Almost 20 percent of the 807 RT-PCR tests applied to both instructors and trainees until September 10 came back positive for SARS-CoV-2. Despite the outbreaks, practices such as shooting classes continued all over the state and — according to the report — without social distancing. 

The newspaper also claims that its questions were only partially answered by the Brazilian Army. The organization failed to inform the total number of military service training participants in the state, or the number of instructors. Therefore, it is not possible to establish the exact Covid-19 prevalence in all people involved in military service, only in the amount of tests performed. 

Asked by the newspaper, the army said it follows all safety recommendations, providing online classes for theoretical training, hand sanitizers, masks, and changes to routines to allow for more social distancing.  The military command also said they are training recruits in specifics related to Covid-19, such as the use of PPE equipment. 

Further requests were denied for being considered “vague.”

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Dec 01, 2020 01:52 PM

Brasília rolls back reopening amid second wave fears

Ibaneis Rocha, the governor of Brazil’s Federal District, issued a decree ordering all bars and restaurants in his constituency — which encompasses capital city Brasília — to close at 11 pm at the latest.

The rule change comes as cities and states around the country have experienced increased rates of new coronavirus cases and deaths. Yesterday, Brazil’s most populous state São Paulo rolled back its reopening plan in all 17 regions, tightening rules on non-essential services.

In Brasília, Ibaneis Rocha declared that his government would focus on increasing coronavirus awareness actions as a bid to combat the potential second wave. However, if this were to fail, the Federal District would “adopt some restrictive measures, which will be necessary regarding bars, where we have seen large crowds.”

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Nov 30, 2020 03:22 PM

Federal aid compensates municipalities’ losses amid pandemic

Money transferred by the federal government to help cities fight the Covid-19 pandemic surpasses expenses by BRL 24 billion (USD 4.4 billion), leaving new mayors in a comfortable position to start their terms on January 1, 2020. 

The data comes from a study by Marcos Mendes, a researcher at the São Paulo-based Insper business school.

Analyzing the finances of 40 percent of Brazil’s wealthiest cities, Mr. Mendes found that the top 29 biggest cities increased their total of available cash by BRL 16 billion in the first eight months of the year — 60 percent more than during the same period in 2019.

In São Paulo, available funds increased by 50 percent to BRL 19.5 billion. Meanwhile, in São Luís, the capital of northeastern state Maranhão, growth hits almost 400 percent.

The researcher concluded that aid from the federal government outstripped revenue losses in the period (around BRL 5.5 billion) almost eight times over. This improved performance can be explained by a recovery of tax revenue and pardons or extensions for municipal debt payments. In Mr. Mendes’ view, however, this could encourage new mayors to spend more money despite the challenges ahead.

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Nov 30, 2020 03:06 PM

Brazilian regulators inspect vaccine facilities in China

Brazil’s National Health Surveillance Agency (Anvisa) has concluded its first day of inspections at Chinese pharmaceutical giant Sinovac Biotech’s coronavirus vaccine production facility. 

The first step of the process is to check Sinovac’s quality control systems, as well as risk and data management processes, and the validation master plan.

Sinovac is producing the CoronaVac, a potential vaccine being tested in Brazil by the São Paulo state government. Observers fear that regulatory processes could be contaminated by political disputes between São Paulo Governor João Doria and President Jair Bolsonaro — under whom Anvisa operates.

The president has challenged the safety of the CoronaVac on multiple occasions, and went as far as celebrating the suicide of a volunteer that led to the temporary suspension of clinical trials of the Chinese-made vaccine earlier in November.

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Nov 30, 2020 12:07 PM

São Paulo to tighten isolation measures amid rise in cases

The São Paulo state government will enforce stricter Covid-19 isolation measures throughout the state as of today, with the official announcement set to be made this afternoon.

An increase in coronavirus cases has led the state to revert to the so-called “Yellow Phase” of its reopening plan, meaning that several commercial establishments will once again operate with reduced hours and capacity. Six of the state’s 17 regions (including state capital São Paulo) are currently in the “Green Phase” — the final step before complete reopening.

The government was criticized for not reassessing its reopening plan in the middle of November, with pundits claiming Governor João Doria was reluctant to bring back restrictive measures while his ally, São Paulo Mayor Bruno Covas, was running for re-election. Now, one day after Mr. Covas won the mayoral vote, the state is set to deploy stricter isolation rules.

Nov 30, 2020 11:39 AM

Mayor-elect dismisses new lockdown in Rio: “extreme and unnecessary”

Elected with nearly two-thirds of valid votes in Rio de Janeiro, Eduardo Paes said on Monday that his administration will not impose lockdown restrictions in the city. In an interview with cable news channel GloboNews, the mayor-elect called total isolation “extreme and unnecessary.”

On Friday, Curitiba became the first major Brazilian city to roll back its reopening process, reducing restaurants’ opening hours and limiting the number of customers stores can host at once. The state of São Paulo — Brazil’s wealthiest and most populous — is expected to reassess its own reopening plan this afternoon, and stricter measures may be enforced in the city of São Paulo. 

Mr. Paes, who served as mayor between 2009 and 2016, promises to announce which measures he will take to counter a second wave of coronavirus infections before he takes office on January 1, 2021.

Despite a hike in Covid-19 cases and deaths, citizens in Rio de Janeiro have long abandoned social isolation. With thermometers surpassing 35 degrees Celsius, the city’s beaches were crowded on Sunday, despite it being Election Day. Many beachgoers were not using face masks.

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Nov 27, 2020 04:58 PM

São Paulo candidate Boulos diagnosed with Covid-19 in election run-up

Guilherme Boulos, of the left-wing Socialism and Freedom Party, has been diagnosed with Covid-19 only two days before the São Paulo mayoral runoff election, in which he is polling a close second.

Mr. Boulos’ campaign team announced that the candidate has not shown any symptoms of the disease, but took a Covid-19 test after meeting with federal lawmaker Sâmia Bomfim last week, who recently tested positive.

The diagnosis comes at a critical point in the campaign, ahead of the final televised debate this evening on major network TV Globo. The Boulos campaign has issued a request to the broadcaster for the debate to be held virtually. However, moderator César Tralli announced on social media that the debate will be canceled.

Mr. Boulos is currently polling in second place for Sunday’s runoff, close behind Mayor Bruno Covas. The incumbent began the second-round campaign with a broad lead, which has been cut to a handful of percentage points, making the runoff almost too close to call.

Nov 27, 2020 03:01 PM

Curitiba to impose new restrictions ahead of second wave

In the wake of rising coronavirus cases and deaths, Curitiba — capital of the southern state of Paraná — is the first major city in Brazil to scale back its reopening process and impose tighter restrictions. 

A new municipal decree orders bars and nightclubs to close. Stores will be allowed to stay open for longer, as a way to reduce the number of customers on their premises at any one time. Meanwhile, opening hours for restaurants have been restricted. 

The occupation rate in Curitiba’s intensive care units rose to 96 percent on Thursday. The local coronavirus transmission rate currently sits at 1.28, meaning that every 100 infected people are expected to contaminate another 128, who will then infect 163, and so on.

Over the past six days, 126 public hospital beds were opened for Covid-19 patients in order to cope with the rising number of cases.

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Nov 26, 2020 11:52 PM

São Paulo could impose new restrictions after Election Day

The number of coronavirus patients in intensive care has shot up 22 percent over the past two weeks in the state of São Paulo. In the Greater São Paulo Area alone, the rise is even more pronounced: 30 percent. The data has forced state authorities to consider imposing new restrictive measures in the areas where Covid-19 is making a comeback.

Governor João Doria has been criticized for delaying the reassessment of the state’s reopening plan on November 30 — that is, one day after the runoff municipal elections will be decided. Bruno Covas, Mr. Doria’s former deputy mayor of São Paulo, is gunning for re-election, and a decision to bring back stricter isolation measures would certainly be an unpopular one.

The state of São Paulo was meant to reassess its reopening plan in the middle of November, but Mr. Doria claimed that problems with government systems prevented reporting on infections and cases for five days, making an immediate reassessment unfeasible.

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Nov 26, 2020 11:39 AM

Brazil creates almost 400,000 formal jobs, twice the expected

Data from Brazil’s Economy Ministry shows that the country created 394,989 net formal jobs in October. The result is almost twice as many as market analysts expected, and was the highest number for a month of October since 1992. 

The annual figures for net jobs in 2020 still stands at negative 171,139, which, considering the magnitude of the coronavirus crisis, is seen as a manageable result. Moreover, the holiday season is expected to create a boom in hires, barring the emergence of a second coronavirus wave in Brazil.

However, the rally in formal jobs does not reflect the situation of the job market as a whole, as informal labor makes up a huge part of the Brazilian economy and was hard hit by the pandemic. Official data shows unemployment rates sitting around 14.4 percent.

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Nov 26, 2020 11:07 AM

Armed Forces want Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello out of the military

Senior military officers have increased their pressure on Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello, calling on him to either retire as an Army general or leave the cabinet. They fear that his poor performance managing the coronavirus crisis will dent the Armed Forces’ reputation.

Criticism of Mr. Pazuello has gained traction after reports that 6.8 million coronavirus test kits are set to go to waste, as they expire in December. Mr. Pazuello took over the Health Ministry on an interim basis in April after the departure of two ministers, Luiz Henrique Mandetta and Nelson Teich.

Both resigned from the government for the same reasons: disagreements over social isolation guidelines and the recommendation of chloroquine as a “possible cure” for the coronavirus.

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Nov 26, 2020 11:01 AM

Small business owners fear economic effects of second wave

A survey by the National Confederation of Industry (CNI) shows that business owners from the industry and commerce sectors registered increased levels of production for the fifth month in a row — however, the recovery is expected to tail off as fears of a second wave rise. 

CNI director Carlos Abijaodi told newspaper Correio Braziliense that it will take a massive effort from the government to inject more money into the economy, akin to the coronavirus emergency aid program that is set to expire at the end of the year.

The National Confederation of Commerce, meanwhile, expects a mere 2-percent bump in holiday sales this year against 2019.

The services sector — the backbone of the Brazilian economy — is still smarting from a 50-percent crash in revenue at the beginning of the pandemic. This sector represents almost 4 percent of the country’s GDP and employs some 7 million people. 

A study by think-tank Fundação Getulio Vargas estimated losses for the 2020-2021 period at BRL 117 billion (USD 20 billion).

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