May 29, 2020 04:10 PM

Health Ministry to (finally) integrate health information

Originally established in a 1990 law, the Health Ministry has finally decided to coordinate its databases to create new technical standards. These standards are related to the use and control of information systems, as well as to the Ministry’s integration with other health care units. One of the goals of the integrated database is to help in epidemiological control, which could contribute to the combat of the novel coronavirus.

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May 29, 2020 03:48 PM

Health Ministry authorized to extend physician contracts until November

Yesterday, President Jair Bolsonaro authorized the extension of temporary physician contracts by the Health Ministry until November 30. The provisional measure refers exclusively to the 3,592 doctors working at federal hospitals in the state of Rio de Janeiro — where the local government has struggled to meet the demand for health care professionals.

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May 29, 2020 03:46 PM

Poll: Brazilians overwhelmingly pessimistic about the economy

The number of Brazilians who believe the Covid-19 pandemic will negatively impact the economy in the long-run has risen to 68 from 56 percent within a month, the latest poll by Datafolha released this morning found. Of the people interviewed, only 2 percent believe the public health crisis will not have any impact on the economy ⁠— in April this number was around 5 percent.

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May 29, 2020 03:11 PM

Over one-fifth of industries could run out of business within a month

Around 22 percent of Brazilian industries are set to run out of business within the next 30 days, while 45 percent of them could do so within three months, the Brazilian National Confederation of Industry has found. Three-quarters of Brazilian industries have been heavily impacted by the coronavirus crisis, with 82 percent experiencing a drop in profits. For nearly half of them, the decrease in profits exceeded 50 percent. 

Nearly 86 percent of the company owners believe the industrial sector will experience an overall negative impact in 2020.

Even companies that experienced an increase in profit are uncertain about their future. The survey found that only 26 percent of them believe they can maintain their activities for more than a year. Another 23 percent of them believe they will run out of business in between six months and a year.

Labor force

In regard to jobs, two-thirds of the companies opted to not dismiss their employees. According to the confederation, however, nearly 8 million individual contracts to reduce wages and working hours were signed since the beginning of the pandemic. Of the companies who relied on lay-offs, nearly 80 percent of them see it as a temporary measure.

Back in February, The Brazilian Report’s Brazil Daily newsletter explained how, even before the pandemic, expectations regarding the industrial sectors were sparking a wave of “early pessimism” in the country in 2020.

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May 29, 2020 01:50 PM

Government extends military enlistment deadline

President Jair Bolsonaro authorized an extension of the deadline for compulsory military enlistment in Brazil until September 30. With that, Brazilians who turn 18 in 2020 will have three additional months to enlist.

As shown by The Brazilian Report, this decision comes as the military plays an increasingly important role in Mr. Bolsonaro’s administration. Acting Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello — the third person to occupy the position since the beginning of the pandemic — is an Army general.

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May 29, 2020 12:54 PM

Chile’s frustrated reopening could teach Brazil a lesson

Chile did everything possible to avoid disaster during the coronavirus pandemic. The government of President Sebastián Piñera has been advocating social isolation and closed its borders to prevent the virus from spreading on March 16 — declaring a national emergency on March 18. The government extended the quarantine when it had to and focused on increasing its test capacity. It is now among the countries with the highest number of tests and the lowest mortality rates worldwide. 

So, what could go wrong? 

Unlike Paraguay, in which the government waited to end the number of Covid-19 patients to reopen, Chile tried to implement its own “smart quarantine,” allowing some vital sectors of the economy to return to their normal life gradually. But it failed. In the capital, Santiago (which has almost as many inhabitants as Paraguay), people from the 32 different communes, major neighborhoods with municipal administration power, started to mix. However, every district in the city had its own level of reopening permission. 

The result was a new wave of infections. In the middle of May, with a daily record of new cases and deaths, President Piñera imposed a total lockdown in the capital, saying later that the city’s health system was “about to collapse.” On May 13, Chile registered 2,660 new cases, a 60 percent increase compared to the average. 

Now, São Paulo wants to reopen. But, as the Brazilian Report shows since the first case in February, Brazil’s biggest city, just like the country, is far from being as responsible as Chile. The Greater São Paulo Area, with a population of over 20 million, is more populated than the entire Andean country. 

If we compare only the Covid-19 numbers, things get worst. As São Paulo city tops 50,000 confirmed cases – population 12 million – Chile has 87,000. In deaths, however, São Paulo is a nightmare with more than 3,400 against 890 in Chile. 

From June 1, São Paulo Governor João Doria plans to reopen slowly, as some goals are fulfilled. But if Chile experienced such a devastating setback, imagine what will happen in the city which helped Brazil to turn South American into the new coronavirus global epicenter

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May 29, 2020 11:46 AM

Lower house approves bill to ease labor law during Covid-19 pandemic

Brazil’s lower house of Congress approved a bill that allows employers to reduce wages and working hours during the Covid-19 pandemic. The measure was already in place by way of a provisional decree issued by President Jair Bolsonaro. Now, with the approval of lawmakers, the federal government may renew the program while the calamity state is in progress.

In accordance with the program, if an employer reduces the salary and working hours of a given employee by 50 percent, this worker will receive a 50 percent supplementary amount paid by the federal government and calculated on unemployment insurance. If wage reduction is higher than 70 percent, the worker would receive 70 percent of unemployment insurance.

Minimum wages

On Thursday, the Senate approved an increase to the national minimum wage for 2020. In February, President Bolsonaro issued a provisional decree raising the minimum wage from BRL 1,039 to BRL 1,045.

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May 29, 2020 09:39 AM

Brazil’s GDP drops 1.5 percent in Q1 2020

According to the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics, Brazil’s GDP dropped by 1.5 percent in Q1 2020 from the previous quarter, in line with market projections. The number seems at first significantly better than China’s (-9.8 percent) or the Euro Zone (-3.3 percent). However, this does not mean the Brazilian economy hasn’t been badly hit by the pandemic, it is rather a reflection of the fact that the coronavirus arrived in Brazil later, with the first confirmed case only being recorded on February 26.

Data from the Organization for Economic Co‑operation and Development (OECD) shows that only Chile (3 percent) and Finland (0.1 percent) recorded positive GDP growth in Q1 2020 among the world’s 50 largest economies. Analysis by economist Marcel Balassiano, of think tank Fundação Getulio Vargas, indicates that 82 percent of the countries monitored by the International Monetary Fund should outperform Brazil’s economy over the 2020-2021 period.

Since the 2014-2016 recession, Brazil has registered the worst economic stretch ever on record. And the outlook going forward is grim — as our Daily Briefing shows today, the coronavirus has ravaged the job market, even for the informal, low-paying workers that increasingly make up the country’s labor force.

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May 28, 2020 10:13 PM

UPDATE: 1,000-plus deaths for three straight days

For the third-straight day, Brazil has registered over 1,000 coronavirus deaths. Over the past 24 hours, the Health Ministry coronavirus update recorded new 1,156 victims of Covid-19. Meanwhile, Brazil also had 26,417 new infections — 27 percent higher than the previous record.

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May 28, 2020 06:45 PM

Brazilian researcher explores effects of Covid-19 on brain function

Marcelo M. S. Lima, associate professor at the Physiology Department of the Federal University of Paraná, published a recent article suggesting that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, may have severe effects on the human brain. He quotes that some 36.4 percent of patients suffer some form of cerebral complications, a rate that rises to 45.5 percent among severe cases.

The alert toward potential brain complications is the temporary loss of sense of smell reported by a large number of patients, says the researcher. The ability to smell is regulated by the central nervous system, suggesting that the coronavirus may be using smell receptors as an entryway into human organisms.

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May 28, 2020 06:17 PM

Only 15 percent of health workers feel “ready” to fight Covid-19

A study by think tank Fundação Getulio Vargas among 1,500 professionals of public health units shows that 65 percent of frontline workers don’t feel “ready” to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The data shows that these workers, so pivotal to fighting the coronavirus, are in a state of extreme vulnerability. There is a lack of personal protective equipment, information, and government support,” says researcher Gabriela Lotta, who headed the study. Insecurity is higher among community health workers — among which only 20 percent have received sufficient PPE. “The lack of proper equipment — and training on how to use it correctly — not only makes them more exposed to an infection but also enhances patients’ hostility towards these men and women,” says Ms. Lotta.

Brazil has already recorded at least 137 coronavirus deaths among nurses — more than any other country.

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May 28, 2020 06:11 PM

Covid-19 increases Brazilians’ interest in science, says poll

A new survey by pollster Ideia Big Data, obtained by magazine Piauí, shows that roughly three out of four Brazilians are more interested in listening to the opinions and guidelines of qualified experts now than they were before the pandemic. The data shows a stark contrast between the populations’ interests and the measures adopted by the Brazilian government, which has been consistently ignoring recommendations of the World Health Organization

Simultaneously, the level of knowledge about Covid-19 has increased by 82 percent among those who have a negative evaluation of the Jair Bolsonaro administration. The ratio is 68 percent among his supporters. 

In addition, 34 percent of the interviewees believe that a health professional must lead the response to the pandemic, while only 6 percent believe a military officer is best suited to the job. Since oncologist Nelson Teich quit on May 15, Brazil’s Health Ministry has lain empty, temporarily filled by General Eduardo Pazuello, who has no background in health or medicine. So far, there is no news regarding a definitive replacement.

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May 28, 2020 04:30 PM

Leading public university creates ‘anti-fake news’ project

A group of graduate students from the Institute of Biomedical Sciences of the University of São Paulo (USP) has launched the “Covid Verificado” app, with the goal of scientifically fact-checking information related to the coronavirus pandemic and debunking fake news. On the platform, users can also find reliable reports on Covid-19 and the latest developments, as well as news on social isolation guidelines.

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May 28, 2020 04:12 PM

Pernambuco: Federal Police uncovers corruption scheme involving ventilators

With the support of public prosecutors and the Federal Comptroller’s Office, the Federal Police uncovered a scheme related to the purchase of 500 ventilators from a shell company in the Northeast state of Pernambuco.

According to the police, companies that owe the government more than BRL 9 million (USD 1.7 million) created a shell company to compete for emergency contracts with the municipal government of Recife — which is prohibited by law. The total value of the contracts exceeded BRL 11 million. Of the 500 acquired ventilators, only 35 have been delivered — and of those, 10 were sold at an overpriced rate to other cities in Pernambuco. 

This morning, the second phase of the operation carried out search and seizure warrants in the city of Recife, as well as in São Paulo.

Yesterday, The Brazilian Report’s Lucas Berti explained how the Covid-19 pandemic is creating a wave of corruption across Latin America. In Brazil, irregularities have been recorded in different states, with Tuesday’s search and seizure warrants involving Rio de Janeiro Governor Wilson Witzel and his wife being the latest example.

In the southern state of Santa Catarina, the local health secretary was fired after 200 overpriced ventilators acquired for BRL 33 million were never delivered, while irregularities related to the construction of field hospitals have come to light in the capital city Brasilia.

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May 28, 2020 02:54 PM

Poll: Bolsonaro rejection rates at all-time high

Pollster Datafolha published its latest opinion poll this afternoon, analyzing the performance of the Jair Bolsonaro governments. The administration’s rejection rates rose five percentage points, hitting their highest level yet of 43 percent. The number of people who see Mr. Bolsonaro’s performance as “good” or “great,” however, has remained steady. Voters who classify the government as “O.K.” amount to 22 percent, down from 26 percent in April’s poll.

College-educated Brazilians and students are the ones who have the most pessimistic view of the president — with 56 and 65 percent of each group rejecting him. Among those who praise Mr. Bolsonaro’s work, business owners and higher-income voters have shown the highest rate of support. Affluent Brazilians, however, are the group with the most polarized opinion. While 49 percent see the president’s administration as “bad” or “terrible,” 42 percent support Mr. Bolsonaro.

Among the reasons that have led to this mounting rejection of President Bolsonaro is his disdain toward the Covid-19 pandemic. As explained by Benjamin Fogel this week, every Sunday, “like clockwork,” the president breaks social isolation to meet with supporters — sometimes attacking democratic institutions in the process. His endorsement of chloroquine to treat Covid-19, despite having been shown to be ineffective, has shed light on the president’s mishandling of the pandemic.

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May 28, 2020 02:17 PM

Health and Justice ministers reverse predecessors’ Covid-19 guidelines

Interim Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello and Justice Minister André Mendonça overturned a resolution this week that set guidelines related to quarantine and social isolation measures in Brazil, news website G1 reported. The original text had been signed by their predecessors, Luiz Henrique Mandetta and Sergio Moro, respectively.

The resolution regulated specific points of an anti-Covid-19 law adopted in February. Among the measures established was the authorization for the federal government to impose social isolation measures, as well as compulsory Covid-19 testing. Since the beginning of the pandemic, however, the Supreme Court had decided that it was up to states and municipalities to define and impose social isolation measures in accordance with “local realities.”

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May 28, 2020 02:10 PM

Government seeks USD 4-billion loan to sponsor cash transfer initiatives

Brazil’s Treasury Secretary announced this Wednesday that the government is seeking around USD 4 billion in loans from international financial organizations to support the implementation of cash transfer programs in the country. Among the organizations contacted by Brazil are the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, and the Development Bank of Latin America. The country has also looked for support from European agencies, requesting loans from the French Development Agency and the German Development Bank.

According to the government, these additional resources would be used mainly to support the BRL 600 national emergency salary program, established at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. Though it is estimated that nearly 30 million Brazilians have already received the aid, according to the latest poll released by renowned pollster Datafolha, one-third of the workers who applied for the aid have yet to receive it.

The remaining resources would be used to pay for unemployment benefits and the national job-maintenance initiative, as well as the well-established Bolsa Família program — which, as of April, had enrolled at least 1.2 million new Brazilian families since the start of the pandemic.

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May 28, 2020 12:17 PM

Brazil’s collects BRL 93 billion less in taxes

As the Covid-19 pandemic slows down economic activity in Brazil, it also hampers the government’s tax revenue. In April alone, Brazilians paid BRL 93 billion (USD 17.4 billion) less in taxes, as income tax deadlines were postponed as a way to help individuals and companies weather the crisis. “It is going to get worse,” said Treasury Secretary Mansueto Almeida. 

During the January-April period, tax revenue fell 10 percent in comparison to the same months in 2019, and Mr. Almeida warned that the results for the Q2 2020 “will be bad without precedent.” The primary result for the past 12 months is a BRL 189.5-billion deficit (2.5 percent of GDP), and public accounts could close the year with a BRL 675-billion deficit (9.5 percent of GDP)

An important change in the fiscal results was the deficit in the Treasury Department’s budget. Results were positive before the pandemic, but spending on Social Welfare has reversed the situation, creating a deficit of BRL 9.8 billion in April.

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May 28, 2020 11:54 AM

Brazilian trading numbers drop amid pandemic

Brazil registered a 7-percent decline in exports between March and April, while imports dropped 20.6 percent over the same stretch, according to data published by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). In comparison to Q1 2019, export and import numbers decreased 5 and 15 percent, respectively.

In contrast to other G20 members, however, Brazil recorded a trade surplus. G20 economies had an average drop of 4.3 percent in exports and 3.9 percent in imports — the lowest number since Q2 2017. Meanwhile, Brazil saw an increase of 0.9 percent in exports and 2.8 in imports from the previous quarter. According to the OECD, Brazil was “initially less exposed to the Covid-19 outbreak than most G20 economies during that period, as the exponential growth [in cases] started in late-April.”

Not just the coronavirus

Though the pandemic has had an impact on Brazilian trade, it has simply exacerbated a downward trend that began in 2018. In Q4 2019, the country registered a drop of 8.1 percent in imports and 1.5 percent in exports. In relation to that, the OECD noted that “the increase in Q1 2020 illustrates a ‘recovery’ effect, but the real levels are still below the ones presented in Q3 last year.”

The two other Latin American G20 countries saw trade deficits in Q1 2020. In full lockdown since March 19, Argentina had the worst performance among the group’s members, registering a 14.3-percent drop in exports and a 1.7-percent drop in imports. In Mexico, where President Andrés Manuel López Obrador initially denied the severity of Covid-19, the country saw an increase of 1 percent in exports, but a 1.2-percent drop in imports.

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