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Bolsonaro once again touts ineffective drugs against Covid

Lucas Berti
Jul 27, 2022 17:10

Just two days after a deputy prosecutor general asked the Supreme Court to shelve investigations against Jair Bolsonaro for pandemic-related crimes, the president rediscovered his penchant for Covid misinformation. Addressing members of the Brazilian Federal Council of Medicine (CFM), Mr. Bolsonaro touted ineffective drugs against Covid, and was applauded by the physicians in attendance.

Mr. Bolsonaro’s endorsement of antimalarial drug chloroquine led to accusations of charlatanism and causing a deadly epidemic by a Senate committee investigating the government’s pandemic response.

The Brazilian president again pinned the blame on state-level administrations for the country’s shortcomings in containing the coronavirus spread. 

Health Minister Marcelo Queiroga, who was at the event, raised concerns about the monkeypox outbreak, recently declared a global health emergency by the World Health Organization. 

As of this week, Brazil had the sixth-highest number of cases, with 813 reported infections. The WHO believes, however, that the country may be underreporting cases.

Opposition senators accuse pro-Bolsonaro prosecutor of malfeasance

Amanda Audi
Jul 26, 2022 17:32

Former members of a Senate committee investigating Jair Bolsonaro’s Covid response filed a lawsuit at the Supreme Court against Deputy Prosecutor General LindĂ´ra AraĂşjo, after she recommended that eight probes stemming from the Senate inquiry be shelved. They request that she be charged with malfeasance.

They also ask Prosecutor General Augusto Aras to issue an opinion on the committee’s final report — which last year recommended 81 indictments. Ms. LindĂ´ra said the report was “based on an unequivocal political judgment.” The plaintiffs ask for Mr. Aras to be put under investigation, too, if he fails to respond.

Their lawsuit claims that Mr. Aras used Ms. LindĂ´ra as a front in order to shield the government from accountability.

Senator Renan Calheiros, who served as the committee’s rapporteur, had said the group would not respond to Ms. LindĂ´ra’s recommendations. But other former members of the committee met with lawyers on Monday night and agreed that a lawsuit would be a way to give a public response to the government.

The investigations Ms. LindĂ´ra asked to be shelved include counts against President Jair Bolsonaro for charlatanism, malfeasance, irregular use of public funds, causing a deadly epidemic, and infringing sanitary rules.

SĂŁo Paulo moves forward with fourth vaccine dose rollout

Eric Zalcman
Jul 25, 2022 17:23 (Updated: Jul 25, 2022 17:25)

Brazil’s biggest city São Paulo began administering a fourth dose of Covid vaccine to its adult residents this week. At least seven states have begun the process of dishing out second boosters to over 40s, with the rest still limiting the jabs to immunosuppressed citizens.

While this effort might slightly curb case numbers across those regions, it seems unlikely to make a significant dent in the recent national Covid wave.

Cases of the virus have been surging since the end of May, with the seven-day rolling average climbing from around 15,000 in that period to a peak of almost 60,000 last week. 

A recent study conducted by the Todos Pela SaĂşde Institute found that 79 percent of new cases are identified as either the BA.4 or BA.5 subvariants and that most positive tests are not first-time infections. Deaths caused by Covid have also increased in the last two months, although not quite at the same rate as contagion.

Even with the state of SĂŁo Paulo seeing a satisfactory rate of full vaccination at 87.5 percent, only 57 percent of its population has received a booster. This is the second-highest rate in the country, with only three other states passing the 50 percent threshold. 

Thus, a fourth dose amidst a period of Covid fatigue will result in an even narrower rate of administration and is likely not be enough to halt the rise in cases.

Last week also saw the beginning of Covid vaccinations for children over three after health regulators signed off on the distribution of jabs for this age group. Due to shortages of infant doses of vaccine, the rollout in SĂŁo Paulo is still limited to those with comorbidities, physical disabilities, or part of an indigenous community. 

This scarcity is a nationwide issue, and a grave one at that. According to an exclusive analysis published by The Brazilian Report, the federal government has failed to distribute enough vaccinations for children even in the 5-to-11 age range. Especially as the process has been ongoing since January, this is a worrying sign for youth infections and transmissions.

Regulators threaten to cancel Oi Telecom sale amid stalemate on roaming prices

Fabiane Ziolla Menezes
Jul 22, 2022 13:34

Carlos Baigorri, chair of Brazil’s telecommunications agency Anatel, told several media outlets on Thursday that he will work to overturn the injunctions obtained by Claro, Telefônica, and TIM — the three largest mobile telephony providers in the country — to suspend the regulator’s decision to establish a reference price for roaming services.

Even reviewing the regulator’s approval of the sale of Oi’s mobile operations to the three aforementioned companies is on the table.

Mr. Baigorri told TelessĂ­ntese, a news outlet specializing in telecoms, that the standardization of roaming prices is a crucial measure to reduce the effects of mobile telephony market concentration. The agreement on establishing a reference price for roaming services is part of the agreement for the partial sale of Oi.

Anatel intends to file appeals against the roaming injunctions next week, explaining its cost model to determine baseline roaming prices. Mr. Baigorri also stated that Anatel would join forces with antitrust regulator Cade and the trustee, which is monitoring compliance around the deal signed by the buyers of Oi assets, aiming at a unified front against the companies.

After being granted extensions, Claro, Vivo, and TIM had to deliver their wholesale product reference offers to the agency by last Friday. On the same day, however, the companies filed an appeal in court against the decision.

Claro, the first to obtain an injunction, said in its appeal there were “three faults” in the agency’s decision. The judge who granted the request understood that the criteria and calculations Anatel used to arrive at the reference price were unclear, violating the public agency’s obligation to publicize its acts.

Another point questioned by the carriers is that Anatel altered its calculation methodology, changing the top-down FAC-HCA model used since 2014 for the bottom-up LRIC+ model, which is based on a projection of the company’s future costs. According to the companies, this methodology does not adequately factor in costs that operators incur when providing the service.

Anatel, in turn, said that it changed its methodology precisely to stimulate efficiency and competitiveness in the market and that this will be duly explained to the courts.

Rate of positive Covid tests in Brazil on par with Omicron wave

Eric Zalcman
Jul 11, 2022 11:58

Abrafarma, an association of Brazilian drugstore chains, has reported that the rate of Covid tests coming back positive reached 35 percent in the week ending on July 3. It was the highest in 21 weeks and on par with early-February numbers, when Brazil underwent a massive surge in cases caused by the spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

The seven-day rolling average of new daily deaths, meanwhile, has risen by 63 percent over the past month, according to official data — and has remained above or around the 200 mark for 17 days in a row.

Infectious disease experts say the spike in Covid cases and deaths is a result of Brazilians’ abandonment of behaviors to prevent transmission, such as mask use and social distancing. 

Moreover, Brazilians have been less diligent about getting booster shots than they were for the two initial rounds of vaccination. The Health Ministry says almost 112 million doses of Covid vaccines have not been administered because people failed to abide by the vaccination schedule.

Researchers from the University of SĂŁo Paulo calculated the country’s transmission rate at 1.74 today, down from 1.86 on June 30, the most recent peak. This means that every 100 people infected with Covid will transmit the virus to another 174, who will then infect 303. 

Recent data on hospitalizations for severe acute respiratory infection (SARI) shows that children aged under 5 (for whom vaccination has not gotten a green light from regulators) and elderly citizens have been the hardest hit by this new wave.

Brazilian Justice minister tests positive for Covid

TBR Newsroom
Jul 05, 2022 17:10 (Updated: Jul 05, 2022 17:11)

Anderson Torres, Brazil’s 46-year-old Justice minister, on Tuesday announced on Twitter that he has contracted the coronavirus, but added that he is not showing any symptoms.

Mr. Torres participated in a cabinet meeting with other ministers and President Jair Bolsonaro in the morning. The government discussed ways to continue to use communication outlets to improve its image without breaking electoral laws that forbid campaigning messages before August 16.

The Justice minister was expected to attend a luncheon with the pro-business caucus in the House, but canceled his participation.

States ask Brazilians to wear masks again, as cases soar

Lucas Berti
Jul 01, 2022 16:26

At least seven Brazilian state capitals have once again recommended the use of face masks, as the seven-day rolling average of new daily Covid cases hits a four-month high.

In the city of SĂŁo Paulo, the new guidance aims at lowering occupation rates for hospital beds, which rose by 74 percent early in June. Other states followed suit but only PiauĂ­, in the northeast, has brought mask mandates back. Health officials have reported a 753-percent surge in infections.

Northeastern states such as Bahia are also on alert. The region is hosting Festa Junina celebrations – one of the most important events in its cultural calendar. Huge parties are held in cities, towns, and villages all over the Northeast of Brazil on the feast days of Saints Anthony (June 13), John (June 24), and Peter (June 29) – but celebrations last for weeks before and after these dates. 

On June 13, the state of Bahia reported that infections were up by almost 200 percent.

CoronaVac vaccines will no longer be produced in Brazil

Lucas Berti
Jun 27, 2022 14:25 (Updated: Jun 27, 2022 14:26)

The Butantan Biological Institute decided to officially end the manufacturing of the Sinovac coronavirus vaccine, sold under the brand name CoronaVac. Production had already been halted in October 2021, as the Brazilian vaccine rollout advanced and the use of other vaccines became more important.

Butantan says it hasn’t received new orders for vaccine jabs since February.

CoronaVac was the first vaccine administered in Brazil, in January 2021, and remained the country’s most-used jab until July of that year. 

After that, it was surpassed by AstraZeneca, according to official data. The Sinovac vaccine remains the only vaccine administered in the country that has not been given a definitive registration by regulators, unlike the AstraZeneca, Janssen, and Pfizer jabs.

The last pack with over 110 million CoronaVac doses was sent from Butantan to the Brazilian Health Ministry in February. The biological institute says there is no forecast for production to be resumed.