New data by the Health Ministry shows that Brazil has topped 9,000 Covid-19 cases, and has reached 359 deaths. Since yesterday, 60 deaths and 1,146 new cases have been recorded — both records.
Yesterday, the number of confirmed cases worldwide hit 1 million, according to the Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE). As of now, more than 58,000 people have died and 225,000 have recovered from the coronavirus.
The biggest Covid-19 headlines in Latin America today:
🇭🇹 Haiti. In the middle of the pandemic, the country has assumed the presidency of the Organization of American States (OAS) permanent council. (The Brazilian Report)
🇲🇽 Mexico. Beer giant Grupo Modelo, owner of 46 beer labels, including the famous Mexican beer Corona, has suspended production. This occurred after a government decree saying beer is not among the list of the agribusiness products which are priorities during the pandemic. (El Financiero, in Spanish)
🇨🇱 Chile. With one of the best health indexes in Latin America, Chile has one of the continent’s lowest Covid-19 death rates. (BBC, in Spanish)
🇨🇴 Colombia. Bogota Mayor Claudia López is asking people to debate the xenophobia caused by the pandemic. Ms. López is the first woman and LGBT+ person to occupy the position (El País, in Spanish)
🇦🇷 Argentina: The Argentine state and the IMF will hold a remote meeting for the first time since the USD 57 billion loan was approved in 2018. The organization wants to develop a plan in order to avoid the economic crisis growing larger (Buenos Aires Times)
After announcing that the first coronavirus-related death in Brazil had occurred in January — a full month before the virus had been detected in Brazil — the Health Ministry backtracked and kept its original date of February 26 for the country’s “patient zero.”
On Thursday, the ministry stated that, based on a “retrospective investigation,” the first Covid-19 death in Brazil had occurred on January 23 in Minas Gerais. But the government says there was a mistake in data entry by the Minas Gerais Health Department, which they were working to correct. The department allegedly entered January 23 for the date when the patient, a 75-year-old woman, actually registered her first symptoms on March 25, before dying on Wednesday.
Minas Gerais has reported no Covid-19 deaths prior to March 29.
The federal government will pay health care residents a monthly bonus of BRL 667 (USD 125) for six months, President Jair Bolsonaro announced on Twitter this Friday. The initiative is part of the “Brazil Counts on Me” campaign, launched by the federal government and aimed at “optimizing public healthcare services to combat Covid-19 and reduce waiting times,” according to Mr. Bolsonaro. Among the beneficiaries are doctors, nurses, pharmacists and psychologists.
The Federal Institute of Pará (IFPA) is producing 3D printing prototypical protective visors to donate to hospitals in the northern city of Belém. The move aims at reducing shortages of personal protective equipment in healthcare units. It reportedly takes up to 60 minutes to print each piece of equipment.
The Senate approved a bill this morning to suspend specific rules until the end of 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In what was a joint initiative by the judicial and legislative branches, the bill forbids evictions until October 30 and adjourns the law that states online purchases can only be returned within a 7-day period. Most importantly, however, it also changes the date for Brazil’s new Data Privacy Law to come into effect.
Initially scheduled to be implemented this October, the Data Privacy Law will now be postponed to January 2021. The original bill presented by Congress had proposed January 2022 as the initial date. Administrative sanctions, however, will only come into effect starting in August 2021. As our Brasilia correspondent Brenno Grillo reported yesterday, governments could take advantage of the coronavirus outbreak to enhance surveillance. Some are already doing so.
The bill now goes back to the House for a final vote, before being sent for sanctioning by President Jair Bolsonaro.
According to British data broker IHS Markit, Brazil’s services sector has experienced the worst drop in activity since the company started polling the country in 2007. Brazil’s Business Activity Index fell 16 points since February, hitting 34.5 points in March. A reading below 50 denotes economic contraction.
Though the country has also registered a drop in industrial production, IHS Markit sees the plunge in the services sector as the main reason for the overall business decline in Brazil. Both the closure of businesses and the decrease in demand due to Covid-19 have contributed to that, according to the company.
“Business closures, canceled orders and shrinking customer demand amid the Covid-19 public health emergency have swiftly translated into a rapid drop in service sector output,” reads the report, released by IHS Markit this Friday.
Demand for fuel in Brazil has dropped between 50 and 60 percent since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, according to Petrobras CEO Roberto Castello Branco (as we reported this week, traffic congestion fell by 72 percent in the São Paulo metropolitan area). When it comes to aviation fuel, he says the drop is over 80 percent — as flights have been cut by up to 90 percent in some of Brazil’s busiest airports.
“It’s only a shock, and every shock is temporary,” Mr. Castello Branco said at an online event promoted by the investment bank Itaú BBA. “We just do not know how long it is going to last.”In response, Petrobras has decided to produce 200,000 fewer barrels a day to avoid oversupply. The company is considering suspending production in the Bacia de Campos and the pre-salt oil layer.
Last month, The Brazilian Report showed how the 2020 oil crisis, combined with the pandemic, might affect Brazil.
According to cable news channel CNN Brasil, the Brazilian Association of Lawyers for Democracy denounced President Jair Bolsonaro at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, due to his “misconduct” over the coronavirus crisis. The association says Mr. Bolsonaro’s attitudes are “absolutely reckless and irresponsible,” exposing Brazilian citizens to risk due to “concrete actions allowing for the spread of the virus.”
Mr. Bolsonaro has been the most adamant opponent of containment measures, saying that he fears the measures to contain Covid-19 may be worse than the disease itself.
According to pollster Datafolha, Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta’s approval is twice as big as President Jair Bolsonaro’s. The cabinet member — who has become the face of the anti-Covid-19 effort in Brazil — is approved by 76 percent of voters, up from 55 percent two weeks ago. Only 5 percent deem Mr. Mandetta is doing a poor job. Brazilian state governors also saw a bump in their popularity — up to 58 from 55 percent.
Meanwhile, Mr. Bolsonaro is rejected by 39 percent of voters — from 33 percent two weeks ago. His approval rating, however, remains stable, at 33 percent, falling only two percentage points and within the margin of error.
Datafolha has said that the two polls amid the Covid-19 crisis shouldn’t be compared with previous surveys without some caveats, largely related to methodology. The institute replaced in-person interviews for telephone surveys, which can deliver different results within the confidence interval.
Earlier today, brokerage firm XP released its own poll, as previously reported by this live blog.
Brokerage firm XP has released a new opinion poll, showing that Jair Bolsonaro’s coronavirus denialism is a risky political bet — not to mention the catastrophic health hazards that scientists have pointed out, time and again.
In line with every other major opinion poll published after the outbreak reached Brazil, the XP/Ipespe survey shows that support for the government has eroded over the past month. The rate of voters who consider that Mr. Bolsonaro is doing a “good” or “great” job has dropped from 34 percent in February to 30 percent in March, and 28 percent in April. Those who believe the president’s performance is “bad” or “terrible” jumped from 36 to 42 percent.
Meanwhile, governors’ approval ratings swung from just 26 to 44 percent in the space of a month. State administrations have staged a tug of war with the federal government over social isolation measures — which the president opposes.
A data collection effort from website Nucleo, a partner institution of The Brazilian Report, shows that Mr. Bolsonaro has lost support during the pandemic — while many of his foreign counterparts have gained prestige with voters. And that list includes countries such as the U.S. and Italy, where governments failed terribly in their initial responses to the outbreak — which turned their countries into the world’s biggest Covid-19 hotspots.
Posting on Twitter, Hélio Beltrão, head of the ultraliberal conservative think tank Instituto Mises Brasil, stated he was organizing an “informal network” of distributing lupus and malaria drug hydroxychloroquine to doctors seeking to administer it for Covid-19 patients.
Tests in Brazil are ongoing regarding the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine to treat Covid-19 patients, and President Jair Bolsonaro has touted the drug as a “possible cure” for the disease. Results, however, are not yet conclusive.
In what Mr. Beltrão called a “public service announcement,” he told doctors to get in touch with him if they are unable to get their hands on the medication, which could be construed as drug trafficking, after the Brazilian Sanitary Surveillance Agency (Anvisa) put strict controls on the sale of the medication.
A criminal law expert consulted by The Brazilian Report said that the conservative think tank leader’s conduct could come under the crimes laid out in Article 33 of Brazil’s Anti-Drugs Act, consisting of offering or selling drugs without authorization or in breach of regulatory or legal norms.
President Jair Bolsonaro has defended the so-called “vertical isolation” strategy against the coronavirus, which focuses on only confining high-risk clusters of the population. That is, those who are more likely to die or suffer severe damage from Covid-19: senior citizens, those with pre-existing conditions, or autoimmune deficiencies. And he is taking action to push this plan forward.
One such move is having the federal administration map out the availability of hotel beds in Rio de Janeiro. They would be used to house high-risk patients — such as elderly citizens living in poorly-urbanized areas — and health professionals. In the government’s mind, that would allow the rest of the population to go about their business as usual.
Our April 3 Daily Briefing brings an in-depth explanation of how poor communities are about to become a breeding ground to the coronavirus.
The Oswaldo Cruz Foundation in the northern city of Manaus will begin tests with chloroquine on patients who have shown only mild Covid-19 symptoms. So far, only severe patients were getting the drug — used for decades to treat malaria and lupus. President Jair Bolsonaro has called the medicine a “possible cure” for the disease, but physician Marcus Lacerda, who leads the trials on mild patients in Manaus, calls for caution.
“We do research to tell whether a drug works or not. And chloroquine might not work. There is a great chance that we don’t find an antiviral against the coronavirus — it is hard to do so against respiratory viruses. Researchers can’t skew the data in order to prove something no matter what, turning a blind eye to negative results if [the drug] doesn’t work,” he said.
Mr. Lacerda says trials could last for at least three months before conclusive results. Other hospitals in São Paulo and Rio Grande do Sul are also beginning to administer chloroquine to mild patients.A small study by Chinese doctors showed positive results, The New York Times reports.
“Cough, fever, and pneumonia went away faster, and the disease seemed less likely to turn severe in people who received hydroxychloroquine than in a comparison group not given the drug. The authors of the report said that the medication was promising, but that more research was needed to clarify how it might work in treating coronavirus disease and to determine the best way to use it,” wrote the newspaper.
With the spread of Covid-19 across the globe, we have been hearing the term “the new normal” quite often — to describe remote work, social interaction through video apps, or reduced time outside of one’s home. In Brazilian politics, it also means having nearly every relevant political actor turning on President Jair Bolsonaro.
On Thursday, the president went on radio station Jovem Pan and lashed out at Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta, saying he needs to “listen to the president more often.” In normal times, that would be that — and many Bolsonaro supporters would echo his words. But in Covid-19 Brazil, even the most die-hard loyalists have criticized the president’s unscientific approach to the coronavirus. Rosangela Moro, the wife of Justice Minister Sergio Moro, took to social media to defend the Health Minister, writing on Instagram “In Mandetta we trust.” She later deleted the post.
Meanwhile, self-proclaimed philosopher Olavo de Carvalho — Mr. Bolsonaro’s political guru — called for a street protest on April 5 in defiance of quarantine rules. Folha de S.Paulo journalist Fabio Zanini reported that the backlash on social media was intense, even among conservatives who support Mr. Bolsonaro’s defense of the military dictatorship, who began sharing the hashtag #Moro2022. Mr. Moro is, course, the most popular member of the administration — even more so than the president himself.
Another sign of the president’s isolation was the cover of conservative magazine IstoÉ, published today with the headline “The Mourão Solution,” calling the retired Army general vice president a better option to lead the nation. Of course, Mr. Mourão would only take the reins if Mr. Bolsonaro was to resign … or be ousted.
The most important Covid-19 headlines in Latin America.
🇵🇪 Peru. President Martín Vizcarra declared that people will be allowed to leave their homes in accordance with their gender. Now, men and women have specific periods to go out. LGBTQ+ groups criticized the decision. (El Comercio, in Spanish)
🇦🇷 Argentina. Femicide rates are growing fast as Argentinians stay at home in quarantine. Over the past 12 days, 14 gender-related crimes were reported. (Clarín, in Spanish)
🇨🇱 Chile. The Chilean consul in the Argentinian city of Rosario, Fernando Labra Hidalgo, died of Covid-19 this week. He was 65 years old. (Buenos Aires Times)
🇩🇴 The Dominican Republic. The Caribbean country posts the third-highest number of Covid-19 deaths in Latin America: 57 deaths and 1,284 confirmed cases. (Listin Diario, in Spanish)
As the coronavirus spread worsens, authorities around the world scramble to get their hands on ventilators — equipment that takes over the breathing process when lungs are no longer capable. For severe Covid-19 patients, these machines offer the best chance of survival.
In Brazil, though every municipality has at least one ventilator, nearly 50 percent of all machines are located in state capitals, according to Health Ministry data. Five cities (Brasília, Recife, Belo Horizonte, São Paulo, and Rio de Janeiro) concentrate 26 percent of all machines, while 861 municipalities have only one. Whereas Brasilia has one respirator for every 1,420 citizens, the rate in states such as Piauí and Maranhão drops to one for 7,000 people. The northern state of Amapá has the worst supply in the country, with one respirator for every 9,122 residents.
On Thursday, Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta announced the government aims to procure 17,000 new ventilators. “We have already anticipated a possible purchase of 8,000 units,” said Mr. Mandetta. Though only 5 percent of all Covid-19 cases require the use of ventilators, a study by Argentine pulmonologist Gustavo Zabert — president of the Latin American Thoracic Society (ALAT) — shows that Brazil will suffer a shortage in only three days should the number of infections mount to 2,300 per 1 million inhabitants.
The latest Covid-19 update by the Health Ministry shows that Brazil has 7,910 confirmed infections and 299 deaths. Over the past 24 hours, 58 Covid-19 deaths were recorded — a 24-percent increase from Wednesday. The country’s most populated state São Paulo is the source of most infections and deaths — 3,506 and 188, respectively.
Worldwide, the number of coronavirus infections has topped 1 million, according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE), of the Johns Hopkins University. Deaths have passed 50,000.
The Education Ministry has launched an emergency program to support scientific studies on epidemics. According to the government, a BRL 200-million budget will pay for 2,600 research grants. The program will be carried out in three waves:
- Immediate greenlight to 900 grants for Ph.D. and masters degree studies for 36 months — to be renewed every 12 months;
- Next week, a further 900 grants will be released — including 30 research projects in epidemiology, immunology, microbiology, bioengineering, and bioinformatics. Each will receive BRL 345,000.
- The last wave will encompass 800 grants in exact sciences and health over the next few months.
Brazilian scientists have suffered from depleted funds — with many opting to emigrate in order to have access to proper research programs. This trend started in 2014 under the Dilma Rousseff administration, before intensifying since 2016 with the government slashing these funds in order to comply with austerity measures.
Under Jair Bolsonaro, the Ministry of Education decided to freeze BRL 5.7 million of the department’s budget, including a 30-percent cut in discretionary funding for federal universities — sparking a wave of protests by students and professors.
It remains to be seen whether or not the government will greenlight the money as its plan states — other economic initiatives to cushion the effects of the Covid-19 crisis have stalled.