Sep 30, 2020 03:39 PM

Brazil creates more jobs, but unemployment still goes up

According to Brazil’s latest National Household Sample Survey (PNAD-COVID), the country’s official unemployment rate rose to 13.8 percent late in July — meaning 13.1 million Brazilians are currently out of work. 

Between May and July, it is estimated that at least 7.2 million jobs were cut.

The report states that this is the highest unemployment rate on record, since the current time series began in 2012. As data journalist Aline Gatto Boueri showed on The Brazilian Report, the number of Brazilians out of a job continues to go up as the economy reopens

The official unemployment rate accounts only for those who are actively seeking jobs, but millions of people stopped looking for a new position during the pandemic out of health fears or believing no jobs would be available. As isolation loosens, many of these people have returned to look for work, joining the statistics as officially unemployed.

Back in February, just before the World Health Organization declared a pandemic, Brazil’s unemployment rate sat at 12.8 percent.

Formal jobs

Also today, the Economy Ministry released a new report on formal jobs, showing that Brazil had a positive balance of nearly 250,000 new formal positions opened in August. This was the best result for the month since 2010 — and the first time since the beginning of the pandemic in which the services sector hired more people than it fired.

These numbers help explain why confidence in Brazil’s short-term economic outlook has improved among industry and commerce companies, returning to pre-pandemic levels. However, business owners are uncertain about 2021, as the government’s emergency salary program is set to end after December.

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Sep 29, 2020 05:41 PM

Novavax begins phase three Covid-19 vaccine trials

American pharmaceutical firm Novavax began phase three trials of its NVX-CoV22373 Covid-19 vaccine in the United Kingdom, in partnership with the British government, the British Department of Health and Social Care, and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). The testing task force will immunize over 10,000 people aged between 18 and 84 — with or without pre-existing conditions — in the following six weeks. 

This part of the research intends to have at least 25 percent of participants aged 65 and over, as well as to prioritize the groups most affected by the disease, the so-called risk group, but also social minorities, including racial and ethnic groups. Half of the patients attending the study will receive two intramuscular injections of the vaccine, which will be administered 21 days apart, while the other half will be submitted to a placebo.

According to the chairman of Novavax’s Research and Development Department, Gregory M. Glenn, the Covid-19 transmission in the UK is considered to be at a “high and continuous” level. Phase 3 of the vaccine’s clinical trial will provide “a short-term view” of the medicine’s effectiveness. Novavax is one of the world’s top companies in the so-called ‘2020 vaccine race,’ which led the firm to expand the vaccine’s production capacity to 2 billion doses annually

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Sep 29, 2020 03:51 PM

Manaus mayor calls for lockdown against new Covid-19 peak

Arthur Virgílio Neto, the mayor of the northern Brazilian city of Manaus, has proposed a new two-week lockdown after Covid-19 cases have seen significant increases. Between September 24 and 28, Manaus health authorities registered 1,627 confirmed coronavirus cases, 30 percent more than the 1,255 seen in the same period in August. 

During an interview with TV news station Globo News, Mr. Virgílio Neto said that his suggestion is based on recommendations from the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation medical research institute and that his government intends to “save lives.”

Mr. Virgilio Neto butted heads with President Jair Bolsonaro earlier this year, while Manaus was facing a full-blown Covid-19 health collapse. The president’s economy-first stance during the pandemic led the Mayor of Manaus to label him an “indirect murderer.” 

The mayor’s statement comes five days after a state decree banning the functioning of bars and nightclubs in the state capital. At least 22 businesses were shut down and another 15 were issued warnings. City hall also closed Ponta Negra beach due to an increase in public gatherings. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the northern state of Amazonas has recorded 4,031 Covid-19 deaths and 136,708 confirmed cases. In April, The Brazilian Report showed how Manaus became Brazil’s own Covid-19 epicenter, and local authorities are attempting to avoid a repeat.

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Sep 28, 2020 04:43 PM

Three in four Brazilian women can’t afford Covid-19 tests

A study by website TrocandoFraldas shows that 74 percent of Brazilian women cannot afford Covid-19 tests, while half would like to take one in order to know if they have been infected. 

As of June, the price range for antibody tests in the country varied from BRL 240 to BRL 420 — the minimum wage in Brazil is just above BRL 1,000 — while the RT-PCR test, used to detect active infections, can cost up to BRL 480. However, 14 percent of Brazilian women were only able to afford the test if it cost up to BRL 50. Meanwhile, only 3 percent of women said they had taken an RT-PCR test, while 12 percent took “quick tests,” the reliability of which has been questioned by experts. 

The poll spoke to 5,800 Brazilian women on August 11 and 12.Several initiatives have sprouted in Brazil to reduce the costs of coronavirus tests. Researchers from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, for instance, developed a test that can detect antibodies in the patient’s blood with 90-percent precision ten days after the first symptoms, costing only BRL 2 for the public health system and BRL 5 for private institutions.

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Sep 28, 2020 11:09 AM

One death every 75 seconds: Brazil’s deadliest day during pandemic

Of Brazil’s nearly 142,000 coronavirus deaths, the government is still trying to determine the exact day of 8,001 of them. This problem occurs as many deaths are confirmed long after they happen, and verifying accurate records has taken some time. That, combined with massive under-testing, means that Brazil doesn’t know for sure how many people have died from Covid-19 on a given day. According to data we have now, May 22 is likely to have been the deadliest day of the pandemic in the country: government data says 1,156 Brazilians lost their lives to the coronavirus within 24 hours, an average of one death every 75 seconds.

Challenge of keeping accurate death tallies

The process of designating the precise day someone died of Covid-19 is more challenging than one may suspect. Until June 18, the Health Ministry identified the exact date of 39,110 deaths between February 26 and June 13. Four weeks later, however, deaths in that same span had increased to 49,463, showing just how big a delay there can be in state health department data.

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Sep 28, 2020 11:05 AM

São Paulo to close much-praised Ibirapuera field hospital

São Paulo Governor João Doria announced the closure of the Ibirapuera Park field hospital, one of the most important parts of the so-called Covid-19 pandemic “front line,” Mr. Doria said. The facility will remain open until September 30, after five months of operations. Since its inauguration, the field hospital treated 3,189 patients and was approved by 99 percent of patients, according to the São Paulo state official data. 

Governor Doria stated that the decision was only made possible by the decline in Covid-19 cases around the state, and the city of São Paulo in particular. The worst days of the pandemic in the state were June 23 and August 11, with 430 and 420 deaths, respectively. On September 25, the number was at 200 daily deaths, in what health authorities consider to be a stable level.   

Other coronavirus-related statistics have fallen state-wide. Recent data has shown a decrease in hospitalization rates for nine consecutive weeks. In addition, in Greater São Paulo, ICU occupancy rates have dropped to 45.3 percent. 

The field hospital managers carried out a voluntary survey with 434 patients, of which 99 percent approved the medical care provided at the facility.

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Sep 28, 2020 11:02 AM

Curitiba mayor admitted to hospital with Covid-19

Rafael Greca, the mayor of the southern city of Curitiba, was admitted to a hospital along with his wife after the couple showed severe Covid-19 symptoms. According to the mayor’s press office, the pair suffered from pneumonia days after testing positive for the coronavirus. Aged 64 and overweight, Mr. Greca is considered an at-risk patient.

The city of Curitiba has confirmed over 43,000 Covid-19 infections and over 1,200 deaths so far.

Mr. Greca is running for re-election this year and was taken to the hospital on his second day of campaigning. His administration enjoys an approval rate of 71 percent, and he is heavily favored to win come November. A recent poll shows him polling over 40 percent — almost 30 percentage points ahead of any other candidate.

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Sep 24, 2020 04:45 PM

Ibope: Bolsonaro’s approval ratings grow 11 points compared to 2019

As reported by an Ibope survey this Thursday, 40 percent of Brazilians rated President Jair Bolsonaro’s government as either ‘great or good’ in July — an increase of 11 percentage points when compared to his approval ratings at the end of last year. Meanwhile, 29 percent classed the current administration as ‘bad or terrible.’ 

As The Brazilian Report has explained, one of the main reasons for this jump in Mr. Bolsonaro’s approval rating is the Covid-19 emergency salary program, paying BRL 600 (USD 108) each month to informal workers and the unemployed. However, the payment has now been cut to BRL 300 a month. During his speech at the 2020 UN General Assembly on Tuesday, Mr. Bolsonaro incorrectly claimed that the initiative had paid USD 1,000 to each beneficiary.

The Ibope survey polled Brazilians on their perceptions of several federal government sectors. Fifty-one percent had positive opinions about “public security,” while the “tax sector” fared the worst, seen in a negative light by 67 percent. 

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Sep 24, 2020 10:50 AM

Latin American countries using lockdowns for repression

A new report by Amnesty International denounces Latin American governments’ use of punitive and repressive tactics to enforce confinement measures during the Covid-19 pandemic.

In countries such as Venezuela, Paraguay, and El Salvador, thousands have been detained under “appalling conditions” in state-run quarantine centers that often lack guarantees against human rights violations.

During the pandemic, around 90,000 Venezuelan nationals who fled the country’s socio-economic collapse have now returned, after losing their jobs in places such as Colombia or Peru. President Nicolás Maduro labeled them “bioterrorists,” and ordered their confinement in roughly 105 state-run facilities.

In El Salvador, President Nayib Bukele’s government quarantined 16,780 people in 88 centers — something the country’s Supreme Court found unconstitutional. Back in April, The Brazilian Report showed that Mr. Bukele has used the pandemic as a cover for ramping up his government’s violent anti-gang and authoritarian policies.

In Paraguay, as of late June, authorities had put some 8,000 people under forced quarantine, mostly citizens returning to the country after working informally in Brazil. According to Amnesty International, most of the detainees had little to no access to clear information about the pandemic and the imposed quarantine.

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Sep 23, 2020 03:32 PM

After encouraging trial results, São Paulo Governor pushes for vaccine in December

According to São Paulo authorities, phase-3 trials of a potential coronavirus vaccine produced by Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinovac Biotech have proven to be safe. The development of the so-called CoronaVac is being conducted in partnership with São Paulo’s Butantan Biological Institute — and the state could receive as many as 60 million doses by February 2021.

Butantan chief Dimas Covas and a representative from the Chinese company said the vaccine had no adverse effects in 94.7 percent of the 50,000 volunteers. According to them, only 0.03 percent of patients felt side effects such as a lack of appetite, migraines, fatigue, and high fever.

“These results prove that the CoronaVac is extremely safe,” said Governor João Doria — who added that vaccination could start as early as mid-December.

The Chinese potential vaccine is currently being tested in ten countries. In Brazil, 5,600 out of 9,000 volunteers in 12 research centers have already received at least one of two doses. If the results are positive, the São Paulo state government may request authorization from federal sanitary authorities to produce and distribute the vaccine.

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Sep 23, 2020 02:11 PM

Second Supreme Court Justice catches Covid-19

Supreme Court Justice Cármen Lúcia has tested positive for Covid-19 — making her the ninth person who attended the September 10 inauguration of Chief Justice Luiz Fux to have contracted the coronavirus. A source close to the justice told The Braziliian Report that Ms. Lúcia is well, despite her diagnosis.

Several high-profile authorities in Brasília have recently been infected with the virus, including Prosecutor General Augusto Aras, Tourism Minister Marcelo Álvaro Antonio, and House Speaker Rodrigo Maia — along with several members of high courts.

But while the inauguration ceremony is being used as a timestamp for these infections, there were multiple occasions during which the spread might have occurred. One was a massive dinner party hosted by the House Speaker the day before. The September 9 event — gathering everyone who’s anyone in Brasília politics — was in celebration of the inauguration of Luiz Fux as the new Supreme Court Chief Justice. Members of Congress were in attendance, as well as members of high courts and prominent business owners.

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Sep 23, 2020 11:35 AM

GDP slump in Argentina worse than 2002 crisis

According to Argentina’s official statistics agency (Indec), the country’s GDP dropped 19.1 percent in Q2 2020 when compared to the same period in 2019. From Q1 2020, the quarterly contraction reached 16.2 percent — slightly better than most forecasts.

The year-on-year change for Q2 2020 was even worse than the 2002 crisis, when Argentina faced one of its most dire moments in recent history. On that occasion, year-on-year GDP growth rates showed a 16.3-percent hit.

Argentina has been in recession since 2018 — and the pandemic only made matters worse, as the country entered lockdown in mid-March and is still enforcing some restrictive measures. Moreover, Argentina still has a large debt to pay to the International Monetary Fund and other foreign creditors. 

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Sep 22, 2020 03:51 PM

U-turn in Ecuador could see Flamengo match go ahead

After health authorities in the Ecuadorian city of Guayaquil stepped in to impede tonight’s Copa Libertadores football match between Rio de Janeiro-based club Flamengo and local side Barcelona, pressure from the sport’s governing bodies could see the match go ahead regardless.

After multiple Flamengo players and staff members had tested positive for Covid-19 upon arrival in Guayaquil, municipal officials moved to temporarily close Barcelona’s Estadio Monumental, forcing the game’s postponement.

However, South American football confederation Conmebol has reportedly put pressure on Ecuador’s federal government to force the game to take place. Guayaquil mayor Cynthia Viteri tweeted that “the Estadio Monumental has not been closed” and that they are awaiting a statement from the Ecuadorian Health Ministry.

“Mobile bubble” is no bubble at all

Last week, as the continental tournament resumed following a six-month hiatus, we at The Brazilian Report explained the risks that a transnational competition in South America would entail — with players traveling between countries where the Covid-19 pandemic is not controlled. Conmebol talked about creating a “mobile bubble,” that is, a set of sanitary guidelines that would keep coaching staff and players as isolated as possible.

It took less than a week for this bubble to burst.

Problems abound

After losing seven players to the coronavirus, Flamengo were unable to fly replacement squad members to Guayaquil — or even hold outdoor training sessions — due to poor air quality as a result of ash from the nearby Sangay volcano. On September 20, the volcano’s activity increased considerably, spewing large plumes of ashes, gas and steam.

Sep 22, 2020 12:27 PM

Brazil Investment Forum postponed due to Covid-19

Originally scheduled for November 10 and 11, the Brazil Investment Forum will be postponed to May 2021 due to Covid-19, reported CNN Brasil. The forum is the biggest event in Latin America for promoting foreign investment in the region — and usually attracts executives from major corporations, investors, and government authorities from all over the world.

The Brazil Investment Forum is usually held in São Paulo — Brazil’s biggest economic center — but social-distancing rules put in place by the local government make such an event impossible to take place. 

President Jair Bolsonaro discussed the postponement with Foreign Minister Ernesto Araújo, Economy Minister Paulo Guedes, Central Bank Chairman Roberto Campos Neto, and the Chairman of the Brazilian Agency of Investments Promotion (Apex-Brasil), Sérgio Segovia.

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Sep 21, 2020 04:40 PM

Brazil plans to buy even more chloroquine

The Jair Bolsonaro administration has already distributed over 5.8 million pills of chloroquine to treat Covid-19 patients. But despite a lack of scientific evidence to support the use of the antimalarial drug against the coronavirus, the Brazilian government is moving to buy even more pills — according to filings by the Health Ministry. 

The information was gathered by Fiquem Sabendo, a journalism agency that advocates for the transparency of public information. 

President Bolsonaro is arguably the world’s biggest advocate for chloroquine, touting the unproven medicine as a “possible cure” for Covid-19. The president claims he used the medicine after testing positive for the coronavirus in July, and calls himself “living proof” of the drug’s efficacy. “Over 100,000 people have died [of Covid-19] in Brazil. If they had been treated back then with this medicine, maybe these lives would have been spared,” he told supporters last month.

During the pandemic, chloroquine production by the Brazilian Army rose 84 times — with 1.25 million pills being manufactured between March and April. In August, the Army declared it had over 1 million pills stockpiled, but no procurement demand for the drug.

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Sep 21, 2020 04:32 PM

Over 60 countries commit to COVAX initiative; Brazil not among them

The World Health Organization has released a list of 64 countries — representing nearly two-thirds of the global population — which have committed to the COVAX Facility, a worldwide initiative that brings together governments and manufacturers to ensure future Covid-19 vaccines reach those in greatest need, whoever they are and wherever they live. These 64 members of the Facility will be joined by 92 low- and middle-income economies eligible for support for the procurement of vaccines.

Brazil, however, has only signed a non-binding confirmation of intent to participate in the COVAX Facility, and asked for more time to evaluate whether or not to help finance the initiative. So far, South America is represented by Argentina, Colombia, Paraguay, Peru, and Suriname. Meanwhile, Brazil, Mexico, and Chile have yet to fully commit.

The Brazilian government said it needs more information on COVAX Facility’s regulatory framework and logistics plans. “Those definitions are particularly important to a continental country such as Brazil,” said the administration’s press secretary.

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Sep 21, 2020 10:38 AM

Rio de Janeiro to allow fans back into football stadiums

Despite a rise in the 7-day rolling average of new daily deaths, the city of Rio de Janeiro will allow fans to attend football matches starting in October. The match between Rio side Flamengo and Athletico Paranaense, scheduled for October 4, is set to be Brazil’s first game with fans in six-plus months. If results are positive, other stadiums in Rio will be allowed to reopen.

Ticket sales will happen exclusively online, in order to avoid public gatherings at ticket offices. Moreover, only one-third of seats can be filled — which, in the case of the Maracanã stadium, means roughly 20,000 fans.

Some rules must be followed, such as the mandatory use of facemasks, social distancing of at least 1.5 meters between people in the stands, and temperature measurement at entrance gates.

Football was one of the first activities to return from coronavirus-imposed quarantines in Brazil, and the management of the epidemic among players and staff has been haphazard, to say the least. As an example, Flamengo recorded six cases of Covid-19 among their playing squad on Sunday night, but the club will not be impeded from playing a continental tie in Guayaquil, Ecuador tomorrow evening.

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Sep 21, 2020 10:31 AM

14 die from rare inflammatory diseases caused by Covid-19

According to data from the Brazilian Health Ministry, 14 children and young people have died in the country after developing a rare inflammatory syndrome as a result of contracting Covid-19. Pediatric inflammatory multisystem syndrome (PIMS) is seen in people up to 19 years old who have previously been infected with the coronavirus. A total of 197 cases were confirmed. 

The ministry said that despite these symptoms having to be observed carefully, occurrences “have been rare so far, given a large number of cases with good recovery.” The new syndrome has been seen in 14 of the country’s 27 states; Ceará tops the list with 41 cases confirmed, making up 21 percent of all PIMS patients in the country so far.

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Sep 21, 2020 10:21 AM

Coronavirus infection slowing down in São Paulo city for the first time

According to a coronavirus monitoring panel compiled by newspaper Folha de S.Paulo, the city of São Paulo is currently in a decreasing phase of its Covid-19 epidemic. In simple terms, this means the number of confirmed cases has dropped considerably in recent weeks.

In the last seven days, the country’s biggest city reported around 1,000 to 1,500 cases every day. The week prior to that, new cases hovered around 1,400 and 2,000, when the city’s epidemic was considered to be in a “stable” and “constant” phase. 

When looking at the whole of São Paulo state — Brazil’s most populous — hospitals have posted positive results over the last week, with the lowest occupancy rate of intensive care beds since the beginning of the pandemic in February (49.1 percent). The city of São Paulo is currently registering an ICU occupancy rate of 48.5 percent.

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