Oct 20, 2020 01:32 PM

Rio de Janeiro greenlights events in at samba schools

In the months leading up to Carnival, samba schools around Brazil find a source of revenue in holding open rehearsals of their performances at the prestigious Carnival parades. Of course, with the 2021 edition of the popular festival set to be delayed, open rehearsals were out of the question — until now. Local government in Rio de Janeiro has authorized the city’s samba schools to hold in-person events from November 1 and beyond.

Tables and chairs will be numbered to avoid overcrowding, and events should follow the sanitary protocols established elsewhere in the city. 

The decision, however, only concerns the schools based inside Rio de Janeiro city proper — while others located on its outskirts depend on specific local legislation.

Oct 20, 2020 01:24 PM

Brazil should stockpile medical supplies before it is too late, says scientist

As the coronavirus storms back in Europe, the prospect of normality has been replaced with a fear of new lockdowns. The 7-day rolling average of new daily cases in the continent jumped from 17,000 on August 1 to a whopping 138,000, indicating that the worst of the pandemic may be yet to come.

With that in mind, renowned Brazilian scientist Miguel Nicolelis, coordinator of the Northeastern Coronavirus Scientific Committee, advised Brazilian authorities not to waste any time in closing borders to European citizens and stockpiling medical supplies such as ventilators, masks, and personal protective equipment.

Earlier in the year, Brazil’s Health Ministry did not prepare for the inevitable arrival of the virus, causing many local healthcare networks to collapse — or get close to that point. “With a rise in cases, there could be an avalanche of people fleeing winter and heading to the tropics,” Mr. Nicolelis told newspaper O Globo. “This is a pandemic. No planning can ignore the global context.”

The scientist warns of another problem ahead: with the municipal elections in November, there will be a change in command in many cities — and the growing pains of inexperienced administrations could be fatal in the context of a pandemic.

In Brazil, infection and death curves are falling — but experts are unanimous in saying it is too soon to declare victory against the virus.

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Oct 19, 2020 07:25 PM

Brazilian investors to surf Covid-19 vaccine wave

As part of the regulators’ efforts to increase local investors’ access to foreign investment opportunities, 72 new Brazilian Depositary Receipts (BDRs) — negotiable instruments traded on the São Paulo stock exchange and backed by shares of foreign companies — debuted on the domestic market on October 19, granting Brazilians access to the stocks of leading pharma companies as the world seeks a Covid-19 vaccine. 

The new assets include British-Swedish lab AstraZeneca, German pharma company BioNTech, and Switzerland’s Novartis. Before their inclusion, only American pharma firm Johnson & Johnson was traded locally.  

Besides the pharma big-hitters, the inclusion of European, Asian, Latin American and African companies as locally traded foreign stocks is a milestone for the BDR market, which was largely concentrated on U.S.-traded assets. The decision follows the Brazilian Securities Commission (CVM) early move to open BDR trading to individual investors.

AstraZeneca’s vaccine, developed in partnership with the University of Oxford, is currently in trials carried out by São Paulo’s Federal University (Unifesp), while trials for Pfizer and BioNTech’ss BNT162 mRNA-based vaccine are going ahead in the states of São Paulo and Bahia.

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Oct 19, 2020 07:19 PM

Brazilian government elects nitazoxanide as a “new chloroquine”

Brazil’s Science and Technology Ministry claimed on Monday that nitazoxanide, a drug for treating worms, is effective against Covid-19 when used in the early stages of the disease. But the disclosure of these findings has raised more than a few eyebrows.

Government officials presented a slide with the title “Scientifically proven: [nitazoxanide] reduces viral load,” alongside a decreasing bar chart. 

However, journalists found that the graph was taken from online image bank Shutterstock, originally entitled “Beautiful 3D animation of a downward bar chart following the arrow trading on the stock exchange.”

The discovery led critics to doubt the reliability of the study and compare nitazoxanide to hydroxychloroquine — an antimalarial drug with no proven effect against the coronavirus, but touted by President Jair Bolsonaro as a “possible cure” against Covid-19.

Meanwhile, Patrícia Rocco, the study’s coordinator, said that the drug “caused a significant reduction in viral load” when compared to a placebo.

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Oct 19, 2020 04:08 PM

Doria: “CoronaVac is safest Covid-19 vaccine trialed in Brazil”

In a press conference this afternoon, São Paulo Governor João Doria declared that CoronaVac — the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinopharma and Brazil’s Instituto Butantan — has achieved better results and lower rates of adverse side effects than any other vaccine trialed in Brazil so far. 

The vaccine is considered “safe” by Dimas Covas, president of the Butantan Biological Institute, who said the worst side effects consisted of pain at the injection site (reported by roughly 18 percent of volunteers) and headaches (felt by nearly 15 percent). Just over one-third of patients suffered from at least one collateral effect (35 percent), lower than other potential vaccines being tested in the country. According to data from the Butantan Institute, only 0.1 percent experienced a fever after taking the vaccine, and no grade three side effects (the most severe) were recorded. 

With these results, Mr. Doria stated that “it is the safest vaccine not only in Brazil, but in the world.”

The race for a coronavirus vaccine has not only been a geopolitical affair — but has also been a subject of contention between Mr. Doria and President Jair Bolsonaro, who has raised suspicions among his supporters around the “Chinese vaccine.” The Health Ministry has not yet included the CoronaVac in Brazil’s federal 2021 vaccination calendar.

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Oct 19, 2020 03:05 PM

Russian Covid-19 vaccine to be produced in Brazil as of December

The director of Russia’s Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), Kirill Dmitriev, announced that Brazil has been chosen to produce the Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine, while the medicine will be distributed to several other countries in Latin America as early as December, according to local media

“We believe that we can supply Latin America in December, we will produce dozens of millions of doses in December […] and actively supply them in January,” Mr. Dmitriev was quoted as saying. 

Sputnik V was the first Covid-19 vaccine to be produced and is currently in phase-three trials with patients in Russia, Venezuela, the United Arab Emirates, and Belarus. The vaccine will also be produced in India, China, and South Korea, according to Mr. Dmitriev.

He added that they aim to obtain fast-tracked regulatory approval in all countries. Besides the current deals with Brazil and Mexico, the RDIF hopes to sign agreements with Argentina and Peru. Currently, Russia has agreed on deals with local governments in the Brazilian states of Bahia and Paraná, but health regulator Anvisa is still evaluating whether national tests will be possible. 

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Oct 19, 2020 11:32 AM

Health Ministry has two more days to decide on Chinese vaccine

São Paulo Governor João Doria informed the Health Ministry that the federal government has two more days to decide whether it will purchase the CoronaVac vaccine — developed by the São Paulo-based Butantan Institute, in partnership with Chinese pharmaceutical group Sinovac Biotech.

Mr. Doria said that he will meet with Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello to discuss whether the vaccine — which is produced in São Paulo — will be distributed on a national scale. The governor also said that he is in talks with other Brazilian states to sell the medicine directly, in case the Health Ministry opts not to purchase it.

The São Paulo state government will disclose its final report today on the vaccine’s phase three trials.Vaccination plans in the state of São Paulo are expected to start by December 15 and health professionals will be the first to get immunization.

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Oct 16, 2020 09:28 AM

Brazil’s Communications Minister tests positive for Covid-19

Fábio Faria, Brazil’s Communications Minister, announced on Twitter that he has contracted the coronavirus. He mentioned having a fever and headache — but says he is “practically asymptomatic” as of now, and will continue to work remotely. He is the 11th Brazilian cabinet member to test positive for Covid-19.

On Twitter, he suggested that he may have caught the virus “at a dinner party after which many participants became ill.” He was talking about last week’s meeting between House Speaker Rodrigo Maia and Economy Minister Paulo Guedes, in which the two tried to bury the hatchet over past disagreements and work together for economic reforms.

Like many of President Bolsonaro’s underlings, Mr. Faria said he would treat himself with hydroxychloroquine — an antimalarial drug with no proven effect against Covid-19, but touted by the president as a “possible cure.”

A congressman, Mr. Faria joined the administration in June after President Jair Bolsonaro promoted a cabinet reshuffle — re-creating the Communications Ministry. In just a few months, however, he has become one of the president’s most influential advisors, helping reshape Mr. Bolsonaro’s typically confrontational demeanor. 

Since Mr. Faria took office, the president has abandoned his constant attacks against Congress and the Supreme Court and has instead tried to build bridges with the other branches of government. That shift has been pivotal in the government’s efforts to diffuse investigations against the First Family — especially the involvement of the president’s eldest son with money-laundering schemes, and his two other political sons’ involvement with illegal fake news-spreading networks.

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Oct 15, 2020 12:32 PM

Bolsonaro’s rejection rates drop, but Brazilians demand more emergency aid

The rejection rate of the Jair Bolsonaro administration fell by 5 percentage points in October — to 31 percent, the lowest level since May 2019 — according to a new XP/Ipespe poll. The share of the population that evaluates the administration as “good/great” remained at 39 percent. Still, this is the second-highest approval rating of the government since February 2019, one month into President Bolsonaro’s term. 

The improvement in the administration’s popularity levels came off the back of improved prospects in a series of indicators: 40 percent of voters perceive news concerning the government as “negative,” down from 63 percent in May. 

Also, less Brazilians believe corruption will increase over the coming months, dropping five percentage points to 40 percent. However, this came before Wednesday’s scandal involving Senator Chico Rodrigues, the government’s deputy whip in the Senate, who was found hiding money embezzled from Covid-19 efforts “between his buttocks”.

Another key reason behind the president’s lower rejection rates — the coronavirus emergency aid program — is broadly supported by the population. As of October, 42 percent of interviewees had received the stipend, while 45 percent considered it was a good decision to extend payments until the end of the year. More importantly, 68 percent of Brazilians believe that if the new cash transfer program Renda Cidadã is not approved, the government should extend the emergency aid into 2021.

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Oct 15, 2020 10:36 AM

Central Bank “GDP preview” slows down in August

The Brazilian Central Bank’s IBC-Br index — seen as a preview of the country’s GDP — rose by 1.06 percent in August, below market forecasts of a 1.7-percent spike and July’s 2.15-percent growth. Still, it is the fourth consecutive month of recovery. 

Since January, the IBC-Br has fallen 3.92 percent, while markets’ consensus expected a 4.10-percent plunge. On a year-to-date basis, the index is down 5.44 percent, worse than the 4.7-percent drop in economic activity expected by the Economy Ministry.

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Oct 15, 2020 05:51 AM

Peru scraps hydroxychloroquine, azithromycin from Covid-19 medication list

The Peruvian government has revoked the inclusion of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin on the list of medications recommended to treat Covid-19, in the wake of studies that show neither drug is effective in combating the disease, while antiviral Remdesivir has shown positive results. 

When it first recommended the use of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin back in April, Peru’s Health Ministry had already warned there was no robust evidence to support the efficiency of either drug, but allowed their use at the discretion of medical professionals.  

However, the decision to remove the medications from the list came soon after the director of the country’s health technology evaluation institute was fired following a study on the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine in treating Covid-19. As Gestión newspaper reports, Peru’s Health Ministry is still evaluating the study, but it has already been criticized for a lack of scientific rigor. 

Hydroxychloroquine has been widely touted as a Covid-19 treatment by several world leaders, especially Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro, who claims to be living proof that the medicine works.

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Oct 14, 2020 10:26 AM

Coronavirus daily deaths at the lowest average in months

For the first time since May 7, Brazil’s 7-day rolling average of new daily Covid-19 deaths has fallen below 500 — showing a 28-percent decrease from two weeks ago. After 28 days of stability, the Brazilian death curve has seen a downturn over the past two days.

In today’s Daily Briefing (for premium subscribers) we explain what may be hidden behind the numbers. Read now.

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Oct 14, 2020 06:47 AM

São Paulo postpones decision to return to in-person classes

The city of São Paulo postponed its decision to return to in-person classes on November 3. Mayor Bruno Covas wants to wait for the results of an epidemiological census in the city, which will offer a better glimpse into how the pandemic is progressing in São Paulo.

The result of the survey is expected to be released by October 22 — and only then will the local government decide when municipal schools should return to in-person classes. Starting next week, however, 15 schools will be allowed to hold extra-curricular activities on their premises.

Last week, state authorities placed Greater São Paulo in the second-to-last phase of its reopening plan. If the region doesn’t experience an uptick in cases within 14 days, schools will be allowed to hold in-person classes at 70 percent capacity.

According to a serological survey of children in the city of São Paulo, about 17.6 percent of students of municipal schools have developed Covid-19 antibodies — against 12.6 percent among students of private schools.

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Oct 13, 2020 05:01 PM

‘Fake vaccine’ being sold on outskirts of Rio de Janeiro

The Brazilian National Health Surveillance Agency (Anvisa) has launched an investigation after reports that a fake Covid-19 vaccine is being sold in Niterói, which neighbors Rio de Janeiro. 

“Complaints were presented on September 25, and we forwarded them to the Federal Police on the very same day,” said Anvisa in a statement.

According to the regulatory body, one unnamed company is selling a product labeled as that being developed by British-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca in partnership with the University of Oxford. This potential vaccine — which is still undergoing phase-three trials in several countries, including Brazil — is expected to be one of the first to hit the market, but that is not the case yet.

Brazil is the second-most eager country for receiving a Covid-19 vaccine according to a September poll by Ipsos-Mori — 88 percent of people would take it as soon as it is available. 

As we showed in our October 13 Weekly Report, over 70 percent of people in four major urban centers (São Paulo, Rio, Belo Horizonte, and Recife) even want a vaccine against the coronavirus to be made mandatory. However, enthusiasm for the vaccine is lower among wealthier classes. President Jair Bolsonaro has said on multiple occasions that “nobody can force anybody” to receive immunization.

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Oct 13, 2020 10:33 AM

GDP growth projections stable at around -5 percent

The Brazilian Central Bank has released its latest Focus Report — a weekly survey of top-rated investment firms concerning their outlook for the Brazilian economy. The median GDP growth rate for the year now sits at -5.03 percent, the first time in five weeks analysts have lowered their expectations for the country’s economy.

However, this week’s results confirm a continuing consensus that the GDP skid this year will hover around 5 percent, a much lower fall than initially expected. Back in July, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) predicted the Brazilian economy would shrink by at least 7 percent — a contraction that could reach 9 percent in the case of a second wave of Covid-19 infections.

Brazil’s premature reopening — barely any restriction measures are still observed — has helped boost the economy, though record-high unemployment rates remain a source of concern. The government hopes to figure out a way to roll out a new welfare plan for 2021, when the coronavirus emergency salary ends, without sparking a confidence crisis due to ballooning debt.

Oct 11, 2020 07:10 PM

China flags another Brazilian meat shipment for Covid-19

Authorities from China claim they have found traces of the coronavirus in a frozen meat shipment sent from a meat-processing plant in Barretos, São Paulo state, belonging to Brazilian food giant Minerva. 

Tests were reportedly made on October 1 and the slaughterhouse has been suspended from sending any products to China. According to the Chinese Embassy in Brasília, the suspension is “temporary and will not have a substantial effect on bilateral trade of agricultural goods.”

Minerva confirmed the suspension, but didn’t disclose the reasons.With the new case, ten Brazilian meat- or fish-processing plants have been suspended by Chinese customs authorities due to coronavirus-related issues.

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Oct 11, 2020 07:05 PM

Coronavirus: Brazil tops 150,000-death mark

Brazil has become just the second country in the world to break the mark of 150,000 coronavirus deaths, according to the Health Ministry. Only the U.S. has confirmed more Covid-19 casualties.

Latin America’s biggest country has received international criticism for its handling of the pandemic. President Jair Bolsonaro has been one of the world’s biggest denialists — despite having contracted the virus himself — and the Brazilian Health Ministry is headed by an Army general specialized in logistics, with no experience in the field of health. 

Just this week, Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello says he didn’t know what Brazil’s public health system (SUS) was before taking the job. “I spent my life using Army [healthcare] institutions. I came to know the SUS now, and understood the magnitude of this system,” he said.

Brazil alone accounts for 52 percent of all coronavirus cases in Latin America. All other countries combine for 4.8 million infections — while Brazil has already broken the 5-million mark.

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Oct 09, 2020 02:36 PM

São Paulo reaches penultimate phase of Covid-19 reopening

In a press conference on Friday afternoon, São Paulo Governor João Doria announced that six of the state’s regions — including the city of São Paulo — will now enter the so-called “Green Phase” of the local Covid-19 reopening plan.

In practical terms, this means that Greater São Paulo, Campinas, Baixada Santista, Piracicaba, Sorocaba, and Taubaté will all face looser restrictions on non-essential activities, with activities such as cinemas and theaters allowed to open to the public once again.

The Green Phase is the penultimate stage in the São Paulo reopening — the so-called Plano SP — and the regions incorporated by these looser regulations comprise 76 percent of the state’s population. The remainder of São Paulo remains in the Yellow Phase.

Now, shopping malls, commerce, gyms, and beauty salons may remain open for up to 12 hours a day, at a maximum of 60 percent capacity. Restaurants and bars will enjoy the same freedoms, but only after the regions in question remain in the Green Phase for a minimum of two weeks.

While new cases and deaths have been dropping in São Paulo, particularly in the state capital, the timing of opening up the economy further has been brought into question, as it coincides with the beginning of TV and radio campaigns for the upcoming municipal elections.

In the city of São Paulo, Governor Doria is backing incumbent Mayor Bruno Covas, who is currently second in the polls. The frontrunner is Congressman Celso Russomanno, who has the backing of President Jair Bolsonaro.

The state of São Paulo has the highest absolute numbers of Covid-19 cases and deaths in Brazil, with over 1 million cases and nearly 37,000 fatalities.

Oct 08, 2020 04:14 PM

Better-than-expected retail data spurs market optimism

Brazil’s retail sales grew by 3.4 percent in August — the fourth consecutive positive month — according to the National Confederation of Commerce. The new numbers led the organization to review its 2020 forecast for the sector, from a plunge of 5.7 to a more moderate drop of 4.2 percent. 

Excluding car sales and construction materials, retail performance in 2020 would be 2.1 percent above 2019 levels.

Numbers for August broke the previous October 2014 record, meaning now the sector is down by a mere 0.9 percent in the year-to-date comparison. Official data showed a quick recovery in non-essential items such as textiles and apparel, which grew by 30 percent versus July levels.

Per the National Confederation of Commerce, the recovery may be explained by the government’s emergency aid program, which propped up Brazilian’s purchasing power despite the increase in unemployment. However, they point out the monthly growth is expected to slow down in next month, in comparison to the current pace.

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