April 30, 2021


1. Brazil records over 401,000 COVID-19 deaths, faces risk of a third wave of the pandemic

Yesterday – 14 months after the first case was registered in the country – Brazil recorded over 401,000 deaths resulting from coronavirus. Out of this total, 100,000 people died in the past 36 days. The number of victims of COVID-19 and its variants in Brazil is the second largest in the world, behind only the United States with 574,000 deaths. However, in the U.S. the pandemic shows signs of slowing down. Over 14.5 million people in Brazil have been diagnosed with the disease. In the European Parliament, a discussion about the situation in Latin America prompted criticism of Jair Bolsonaro’s handling of the pandemic.
According to experts, reopening economic activities before a sustained drop in the number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths could result in a third wave of the disease. “It is now time to hold restrictions in place, open things slowly and in a way that is better planned,” says public health researcher Leonardo Bastos, from Fiocruz (Fundação Oswaldo Cruz). According to him, the current scenario “is no longer if there will be a new wave, but when.” Virologist Paulo Lotufo, from the USP School of Medicine, stated that reducing restrictions will aggravate the situation in the following week, with people going to shops and meeting family members without protecting themselves in order to celebrate Mother’s Day, as was the case at Christmas.

Valor Econômico: Brasil supera 400 mil mortes pela Covid-19
Folha de S.Paulo: Em 36 dias, país registrou ¼ das 400 mil mortes
O Estado de S. Paulo: Especialistas apontam risco de terceira onda
Folha de S.Paulo: Parlamento Europeu crítica governo brasileiro
G1: Leia mais notícias sobre a pandemia

2. Without government approval, Butantan begins producing new vaccine

This week, Instituto Butantan, a São Paulo state government institution, began producing the first 100% Brazilian coronavirus vaccine that does not require the importation of pharmaceutical ingredients. The vaccine resulted from a licensing partnership to use and explore a piece of technology developed by the research institute of Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. 18 million doses could be distributed in the country by June. However, the Butanvac vaccine has not been approved by the federal government as Butantan has yet to provide the documents required for human testing. For now, the vaccine has only been tested on animals.
A study by Brazilian and British researchers published this week shows that if purchasing the vaccines had not been delayed, 200,000 lives could have been saved. Virologist Eduardo Massad, from Fundação Getulio Vargas, participated in the research and says that Brazil is capable of vaccinating 2 million people every day. “We have 37,000 vaccination centers in the country. That is a very good network, and we have a tradition of vaccinating lots of people.” Over 31.2 million people have received the first dose of the CoronaVac and AstraZeneca vaccines, representing 19.4% of the population. 15.1 million people (9.4%) have received their second doses.

O Estado de S. Paulo: Governo de SP inicia produção própria de vacina
CNN Brasil: Vacinação mais ágil pouparia 200 mil vidas, diz estudo
Folha de S.Paulo: Veja como está a vacinação no país
O Globo: Acompanhe o cronograma de entrega de vacinas

3. COVID investigatory committee calls current health minister and three predecessors for deposition

Members of the COVID CPI – the Parliamentary Inquiry Committee that is investigating the handling of the pandemic by President Jair Bolsonaro, state governors and city mayors – have convened three former health ministers – including General Eduardo Pazuello – as well current Health Minister Marcelo Queiroga to be deposed starting next Tuesday. These first figures called to court indicate that the federal government will be the initial focus of investigations, representing a defeat for Bolsonaro’s administration. Government supporters criticized senators for not having approved an action plan before summoning ministers. Yesterday, the president tried to play it cool. “We continue to work hard. We are not worried about this CPI,” he said.

Government allies have submitted a writ of mandate to the Federal Supreme Court to get Renan Calheiros removed as the CPI head. However, the Supreme Court has denied the request, claiming that the issue is the responsibility of Congress. The CPI will analyze over 200 issues, including Bolsonaro’s outings without wearing a mask, failed negotiations to buy the Pfizer vaccine last year, documents about the shortage of oxygen at hospitals in Amazonas, the production, purchase and recommendation of use of medications with no proven efficacy against COVID-19, as well as data on the payment of the emergency aid to low-income individuals.

Folha de S.Paulo: CPI aprova convocação de ex-ministros da Saúde
O Estado de S. Paulo: ‘Não estamos preocupados’, diz presidente
Valor Econômico: STF nega pedido para tirar Renan da CPI
O Estado de S. Paulo: Convocação é derrota para o governo

4. State is ‘broke’ and will not meet public health demands, says Guedes

Economy Minister Paulo Guedes said that the state is “broke” and that, due to a shortage of funds, the public health sector will not be able to meet the growing demand for free medical care. He made the statement during a meeting with the Complementary Health Council and had not authorized the disclosure of the recordings. During the meeting, he considered the possibility of the federal government creating vouchers for people to be treated in private hospitals. “You are poor, you are sick, here is your voucher. You can go wherever you want [in the private sector]. If you want, you go to an SUS (the Brazilian publicly-funded healthcare system),” he said.
According to the minister, the pandemic was not to blame for the problems facing the public health system, but instead the advancement of medicine and the right to live. “Everyone wants to live up to 100, 120, 130 years old,” he said. Due to this, he says “there is no investment capacity for the state to deal with the demand.” Guedes also discussed the efficiency of the private health sector compared to the public sector but caused a diplomatic faux-pas with China when he said that: “China made the virus up and their vaccine is less effective than the American one. Americans have 100 years of investments in research.”

G1: Para Guedes, estado ‘quebrou” e não conseguirá atender a todos na saúde
Folha de S.Paulo: ‘Chinês inventou o vírus e tem vacina menos eficiente’, diz Guedes

5. Bolsonaro reactivates deals for reducing working hours and suspending contracts

President Jair Bolsonaro reactivated employment maintenance programs created last year to fight the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The programs include authorizing deals to reduce working hours and salaries as well as suspending contracts. The administration will temporarily provide aid for up to four months for employees who have lost revenue. This will cost the administration R$ 9.8 billion (USD $1.8 billion) with the emergency aid being based on unemployment benefits with a maximum payout of R$ 1,911.84 (USD $326).
Another preventative measure will allow companies to postpone the collection of the Guarantee Fund for Time of Service (FGTS) from employees’ salaries for up to four months. Bringing holidays forward and easing rules about remote work have also been authorized. The administration says it aims to “protect the employment and the revenue of people, to guarantee the maintenance of business activities, to maintain workers’ incomes and to reduce the social impact of stopping activities in the entire country.”

O Globo: Bolsonaro renova programas de manutenção de emprego
Folha de S.Paulo: Benefício emergencial para empregados custará R$ 9,8 bilhões