Brazil insists on botched strategies against the coronavirus

. Nov 26, 2020
coronavirus second wave brazil Red Cross rally to test people in Rio de Janeiro. Photo: Jorge Hely Veiga/Shutterstock

With a potential second coronavirus wave on the horizon for Brazil, President Jair Bolsonaro has stuck to his denialist stance on the pandemic, speaking out regularly against measures that could impede the spread of the virus that has killed over 170,000 Brazilians.

As The Brazilian Report has shown, even the use of masks within the federal administration is treated as an act of betrayal, depriving aides and other government employees of one of the most effective barriers against infection.

</p> <p>Earlier this month, Mr. Bolsonaro celebrated the brief suspension of late-stage clinical trials of the originally Chinese-made CoronaVac vaccine, which were controversially paused after a volunteer committed suicide. Less than two days later, he declared that Brazil &#8220;must stop being a country of sissies,&#8221; complaining of &#8220;excessive&#8221; news coverage on the Covid-19 pandemic.</p> <p>And with coronavirus cases increasing once more around the country — indicating the possibility of a second and <a href="">more lethal</a> wave of infections — further information has come to light to corroborate accusations of malfeasance and incompetence within the federal government during its fight against the pandemic.</p> <div class="flourish-embed flourish-chart" data-src="visualisation/2641109"><script src=""></script></div> <div class="flourish-embed flourish-chart" data-src="visualisation/2641192"><script src=""></script></div> <h2>Brazil has no coronavirus vaccination plan</h2> <p>It was revealed on Tuesday that the Brazilian federal government has yet to publish a Covid-19 vaccination plan, violating an order from the Federal Accounts Court (TCU), which ordered such a document to be submitted by last Friday. Instead of presenting its plan, the government appealed the TCU&#8217;s decision.</p> <p>Back in August, the accounts tribunal demanded that the government publish its plans for the purchase, production, and distribution of vaccines, as well as including information on the logistics of vaccination.</p> <p>The government, meanwhile, chose to focus on the technical minutiae of the TCU&#8217;s order, claiming that it should not have included the Office of the Chief of Staff alongside the Health Ministry as one of the areas responsible for the vaccination plan. It has asked the court to reformulate its order, but the appeal is likely to be rejected.</p> <iframe src="" width="100%" height="232" frameborder="0" allowtransparency="true" allow="encrypted-media"></iframe> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>Test kits set to expire</h2> <p>In another Covid-19-related blunder, newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo revealed that Brazil has some 6.8 million RT-PCR test kits stockpiled in São Paulo that are set to go to waste after their December expiration dates. Brazil&#8217;s testing capability has lagged behind since the beginning of the pandemic, and the 6.8 million exams outnumber the entire amount of RT-PCR tests administered on the country&#8217;s public health service.</p> <p>Once again, the TCU has been <a href="">brought into the case</a>, after federal prosecutors demanded an investigation be opened into why these test kits have yet to be distributed to public hospitals. Associate Federal Prosecutor General Lucas Furtado highlighted the government&#8217;s &#8220;ineptitude&#8221; in logistics, with the public coffers set to lose BRL 290 million (USD 54.5 million) if the tests expire.</p> <p>Much of the blame has been placed on the doorstep of Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello, the Army general who has held the position since May 16. Mr. Pazuello&#8217;s appointment was initially criticized as he has no formal background or training in the area of health — at the time, the federal government rebutted these claims, saying that Mr. Pazuello&#8217;s experience in logistics would be crucial for the distribution of materials to fight the pandemic.</p> <p>Confronted with revelations about the soon-to-expire test kits, President Bolsonaro attempted to shift blame to governors and mayors, claiming that &#8220;all materials were sent to the states and municipalities.&#8221; This affirmation was untrue, as the 6.8 million RT-PCR tests in question are currently stockpiled in a federal government warehouse in São Paulo state.&nbsp;</p> <iframe src="" width="100%" height="232" frameborder="0" allowtransparency="true" allow="encrypted-media"></iframe> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>The chloroquine calamity continues</h2> <p>Beyond the BRL 290 million set to be flushed down the drain with expired coronavirus tests, the Brazilian federal government is also racking up financial losses with the production of antimalarial drug <a href="">hydroxychloroquine</a>, which President Bolsonaro touts as a potential cure for the disease despite a lack of scientific proof.</p> <p>The Brazilian Army&#8217;s chemical and pharmaceutical laboratory has roughly 400,100 chloroquine pills stockpiled, due to a lack of demand from state governments. After being fully convinced of the drug&#8217;s &#8220;miracle properties&#8221; in curing Covid-19, Mr. Bolsonaro had ordered 3.2 million pills to be manufactured — enough to meet regular demands for the medicine for another 12 years.</p> <p>The high cost of manufacturing millions of chloroquine pills was contested within the Army itself. The legal department of the laboratory in charge of making the drug questioned why the purchase of inputs came with a cost 167 percent higher than standard market rates. The TCU is investigating the operation for potential overpricing.</p> <p>The Army&#8217;s chemical and pharmaceutical laboratory has already spent BRL 1.1 million on manufacturing chloroquine, including costs for inputs and packaging.

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Renato Alves

Renato Alves is a Brazilian journalist who has worked for Correio Braziliense and Crusoé.

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