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Amid collapse, Argentina announces new aid for health workers

Lucas Berti
Apr 19, 2021 19:49 ( Updated: Apr 19, 2021 17:55 )

President Alberto Fernández of Argentina announced a three-month USD 70 bonus for health professionals, expected to reach 100,000 people working on the frontline battling Covid-19. The decision came during an announcement of a USD 109,000 (ARS 10.1 million) reinforcement to the health sector, as a response to a new wave of coronavirus infections.

Including the beneficiaries from the 2020 bonus scheme, Argentina has a reported 740,000 professionals receiving financial aid. “This will help health workers to endure a greater effort,” said Mr. Fernández.

On April 16, Argentina registered an all-time record of new Covid-19 cases, with more than 29,700 infections in a single day. Two days later, it was time for deaths to break records, with 217 registered within 24 hours, forcing the government to increase restrictions. 

According to the Vice President of the Argentinian Society of Vaccinology and Epidemiology Analía Rearte, Argentina is “facing an increase in viral transmission due to the new variants.”

In the meantime, the vaccine rollout is slow — only 1.8 million Argentinians (out of a total of 45.4 million) have been fully vaccinated — and the occupancy rate of ICU beds has jumped from 56 percent to more than 70 percent in Greater Buenos Aires over the last two weeks. 

As of today, more than 2.5 million people have been infected with the coronavirus in Argentina, and more than 58,000 have died.

Brazilian regulators will weigh in on Covid-19 antibody therapy

TBR Newsroom
Apr 19, 2021 17:47 ( Updated: Apr 19, 2021 17:48 )

Brazil could approve a new anti-Covid-19 drug by Tuesday, when federal regulator Anvisa will hold a board meeting to discuss a request by Swiss health conglomerate Roche and Regeneron, a U.S.-based pharmaceutical company. 

According to specialized website Pharmaceutical Technology, Roche reports that phase-three trials of Regen-Cov — its antibody cocktail of casirivimab and imdevimab — met its primary objective of reducing the risk of hospitalization or death among high-risk and non-hospitalized Covid-19 patients by 70 percent.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave Regen-Cov emergency approval for use by mild to moderate Covid-19 patients. “This data paves the way for [antibody therapy] Regen-Cov to be used before patients become symptomatic, with a more convenient subcutaneous administration,” said Katharine Bar, co-principal investigator and a professor at the University of Pennsylvania hospital, in a Regeneron press release.

First batch of Pfizer vaccine will be distributed in state capitals only

Ana Ferraz
Apr 19, 2021 17:39

Brazil’s first batch of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine, which will arrive in late April, will only be distributed to the Brazilian state capitals. According to Conasems, national council of municipal health secretariats, the reason for this is that the Pfizer vaccine must be stored at -70°C — which requires high-powered freezers, which few cities have. 

Conass, the national council of state health secretaries, also confirmed this decision. It said freezers could be distributed to state capitals to maintain optimal storage conditions. For the other cities, the agency assured they will receive equal proportions of vaccines from other manufacturers. 

So far, Brazil is only using two Covid-19 vaccines: CoronaVac and the AstraZeneca immunizer, which must be stored at 2°C and 8°C, respectively. The vaccine produced by Johnson & Johnson has also been approved by Brazilian health regulators, the first batches of which are expected to arrive in the country in the second half of the year.

Regulators in Brazil greenlight new vaccine clinical trials

TBR Newsroom
Apr 19, 2021 14:13

Brazilian health regulator Anvisa has approved new phase 2 and 3 clinical trials for a potential vaccine developed by Chinese firm Sichuan Clover Biopharmaceuticals. The decision was made on Friday and published today. 

The study will use up to 30,000 volunteers from countries in Latin America, Europe, Asia, and Africa. Roughly 12,100 participants will come from Brazil, specifically from the states of Rio Grande do Sul, Rio de Janeiro, and Rio Grande do Norte.

This will be the sixth Covid-19 vaccine clinical trial approved in Brazil — after those of AstraZeneca, Sinovac, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, and Medicago-GSK.

São Paulo hits the stores as malls reopen

Ana Ferraz
Apr 19, 2021 13:32

São Paulo state entered the “transition phase” of its reopening plan, allowing malls and places of worship to operate with reduced opening hours. On the first day of these looser restrictions, shopping centers enjoyed a significant increase in activity. According to the Brazilian Association of Shopping Mall Retailers (Alshop), establishments saw “reasonable to good activity” immediately after they were allowed to reopen.

“There is pent-up demand after 30 days of closed stores, so naturally, people have a necessity to buy,” explained Alshop president Nabil Sahyoun. 

Nevertheless, the sector is still not fully happy with the looser restrictions. According to the announcement made by the São Paulo government last week, shopping malls and high-street stores can only operate at 25-percent capacity and from 11 am to 7 pm. Shopkeepers fear the changes made in the sector in recent months may have confused consumers and affected payroll forecasts. The São Paulo administration allowed the change after a drop in hospitalizations. As we reported last week, shopping malls announced that they could fire 60,000 workers in the next few weeks.

Responsible for almost 30 percent of the country’s GDP, São Paulo’s handling of the pandemic serves as a benchmark for several other states. Loosening restrictions could lead to other regions adopting similar measures. Furthermore, the second stage of the transition plan — in force as of April 24 — will allow other segments of the services sector to reopen. 

Restaurants, bars, beauty salons, gyms, and parks will be able to function with restricted hours, which could cause a chain reaction throughout Brazil.

São Paulo receives inputs for 5 million CoronaVac doses

TBR Newsroom
Apr 19, 2021 11:34

The São Paulo-based Butantan Biological Institute received 3,000 liters of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) on Monday morning, enough to manufacture 5 million doses of the Chinese-made CoronaVac vaccine. The shipment arrived at 6:15 am from Beijing and was celebrated by São Paulo Governor João Doria on Twitter.

It had been nearly a month since the last API shipment from China, which delayed Butantan’s timetable for vaccine deliveries. The institute had promised to deliver 46 million doses late in April, but the deadline was moved to May 10. By the end of August, 100 million doses should be delivered.

According to São Paulo authorities, clearance for CoronaVac API shipments comes from the Chinese government, and recent spats between Brasília and Beijing may have slowed the process. 

But states have also struggled to administer the doses that they do have. A survey by news website Poder360 shows states take almost 18 full days to distribute jabs after receiving them from the Health Ministry.

Pandemic restriction on Rio police operations reduced deaths

TBR Newsroom
Apr 19, 2021 9:40

A study by the Federal Fluminense University (UFF) in Rio de Janeiro shows that deaths caused by police action fell 34 percent after a Supreme Court injunction last June restricted police operations in Rio de Janeiro favelas for the duration of the pandemic. 

The decision, issued by Justice Edson Fachin, established that police operations may only take place in “exceptional circumstances,” which the police should justify in writing to the state’s top prosecution office.

According to the study, the number of police operations in 2020 was the lowest since records began in 2007: 320 against a yearly average of 808.

With the blessing of the federal government and the state governor, cops had taken a shoot-first-ask-later policy to new heights in Rio de Janeiro. In 2019 alone, 1,814 police killings were recorded, an all-time record. The Supreme Court restrictions helped make 2020 “the first year in which police lethality went down since 2013.”

Brazilian state governors plead to the UN for humanitarian aid

Lucas Berti
Apr 16, 2021 18:06

The coronavirus collapse in Brazil has led a number of the country’s state governors to request humanitarian aid from the United Nations. The call for help — issued by at least six states — pleads for more vaccines, hospital supplies, and even manpower, as Brazil is also facing a shortage of health professionals.

State governors say they have tried to impose restrictions during the pandemic, which is not the case. While cases and deaths skyrocketed around the country in March and April, social isolation measures have been inconsistent and lockdowns non-existent.

In São Paulo state, for example, despite registering record highs for new daily deaths, Governor João Doria has decided to loosen pandemic restrictions as of April 18, reopening churches and some stores.