February 26, 2021
1. Senate approves purchase of vaccines by states, municipalities and the private sector
On Wednesday, the Brazilian Senate approved a bill authorizing states, municipalities and the private sector to acquire COVID-19 vaccines. The bill – PL 534/2021 – will also allows buyers to take civil responsibility over immunization. The bill paves the way for alternate vaccines in the country. However, the authorization will only be valid while the country is classified as being under a Public Health Emergency of National Importance (ESPIN).
According to the bill, the federal government, states and municipalities can provide guarantees or purchase insurance to cover possible side effects. States, municipalities and the Federal District will have to adopt measures to offer transparency on the use of public resources to buy doses and on the distribution of vaccines and ingredients. The bill, presented by Senate President Rodrigo Pacheco (DEM-MG), will now be assessed by the Chamber of Deputies.
2. States announce health services collapse; Brazil hits record high number of deaths in one day
State governors have warned about a possible collapse in the public health system due to a second peak of COVID-19 in the country. According to the governors, the increase in the number of hospitalizations is exhausting the number of ICU beds available for patients in serious condition. On Thursday, Brazil registered 1,582 deaths due to COVID-19, a record high for the number of deaths in a single day.
“I can see the top of Everest. We are terrified,” said Rio Grande do Sul’s Health Secretary Arita Bergmann during a press conference. On Twitter, Rio Grande do Sul’s State Governor Eduardo Leite asked people to stay at home. The state of Santa Catarina admits to facing collapse. On Wednesday, hospitals registered the highest occupancy rate of ICU beds registered by the Brazilian Public Health System (SUS) during the pandemic: 91.8%. It is not just in the southern states of Brazil where the pandemic has advanced. In Brasilia, for example, Governor Ibaneis Rocha has implemented a curfew from 8pm to 5am in an attempt to control the spread of the virus. The capital of the country currently has 90% of its ICU beds occupied.
3. President decides to change Petrobras’ leadership, stocks fall
This week, Petrobras, the largest state-run company in Brazil, came under fire from both the government and capital markets. President Jair Bolsonaro openly questioned the company and decided to change its leadership following successive price increases for cooking gas, gasoline and diesel. The company subsequently saw its market value lose billions in the stock market on Monday. Bolsonaro also said that he plans to intervene at Eletrobras – another state-run company in the energy sector – due to energy price increases.
The president’s declarations caused a stir in capital markets, one of his main allies during his campaign – as he had promised a more liberal economic policy. Trying to avert the problem, Bolsonaro sent a bill proposing the privatization of the postal service to Congress and published preventive measures aimed at privatizing Eletrobras.
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4. ANATEL approves rules for 5G auction
During a meeting of its board of directors on Thursday, the National Telecommunications Agency (ANATEL) approved rules for the auctioning of 5G technology in Brazil. The regulatory agency decided that the most recent 5G version is mandatory and determined that state capitals must receive the technology by July 2022. By June 2029, the government expects every municipality with over 30,000 inhabitants to have the new mobile service.
Huawei’s participation as a supplier of equipment to phone operators has not been restricted, even though it was a controversial issue due to the government’s ideological concerns. The matter will now be discussed in the Federal Court of Accounts. The auction is planned for the first half of 2021.
5. Bolsonaro promises the return of emergency aid in March
During his Weekly live stream on Thursday (25), President Jair Bolsonaro said that he plans to offer emergency aid again in the next month. The aid, according to Bolsonaro, will consist of four installments of R$ 250 (USD $44.81).
Last week, the issue dominated political discussions in the country. Bolsonaro’s economy team is wary of offering the emergency aid if no other measures are implemented to cover the cost. The president, on the other hand, hopes the aid will increase his popularity. Critics of the administration say the amount is extremely low and are requesting the same amount that was given last year: R$ 600 (USD $107.55). State governments have created their own aid programs for the poor with Rio de Janeiro this week creating an aid package of up to R$ 200 (USD $35.85).