May 21, 2021
1. Accused of lying to the CPI, Pazuello says everyone is responsible for the crisis
Former Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello was questioned for two days at the COVID CPI, which is investigating the federal government’s negligence in handling the pandemic and misappropriation of funds by states and municipalities. In his deposition, Pazuello denied that he authorized the purchase of hydroxychloroquine and that he delayed buying the Pfizer vaccine in 2020. He also denied that President Jair Bolsonaro interfered in the ministry. However, during 16 hours of deposition, the former minister said that a meeting which included the president and members of the Ministry of Health resulted in a decision to not interfere in Amazonas, when the state ran out of hospital oxygen. The decision was approved by the president.
When questioned about the worsening of the pandemic in the country, Pazuello said that everyone in the government had a portion of blame for the crisis. Senator Renan Calheiros – the rapporteur of the CPI – counted 15 contradictions in Pazuello’s deposition. “He flagrantly lied,” he said. Pazuello said that he did not receive orders to cancel the purchase of CoronaVac, for example, even though the former-minister and the president himself said the opposite in a video: “[The president] gives orders and the other obeys.” Yesterday, Bolsonaro complimented Pazuello and said that “the CPI is shameful.”
2. Without Chinese ingredients, Fiocruz and Butantan halt vaccine production
Fiocruz (Fundação Oswaldo Cruz) – which produces the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine – and Instituto Butantan – which produces the CoronaVac vaccine – have halted the process of filling vials due to a lack of ingredients from China. These are the only two vaccines being produced in Brazil. Pfizer’s is imported from the U.S. It is expected that the missing pharmaceutical ingredient will arrive in the country tomorrow. Butantan alone expects to fill and finish over 18 million doses with the new stock of ingredients.
According to a Datafolha poll published this week, 70% of Brazilians think the vaccination process is slow, while 22% believe it is running at a normal pace, within capabilities. The poll reveals that the majority of Brazilians want to take the coronavirus vaccine. The rate of acceptance of the vaccine went from 73% in December to 89% in March and 91% this month. So far, less than 20% of Brazilians have received the first dose of the vaccine. Among people who are over 60 years old, only 39% have received both doses in the 4 months of the vaccination campaign
3. São Paulo’s private sector ICU bed occupation rate at 80%
The state of São Paulo is once again facing a high occupancy rate of ICU beds from coronavirus patients. Since the end of April, the number of people hospitalized in private hospital ICUs has increased by 7.5%. A poll undertaken with 90 large hospitals from May 11th to 17th reveals that the majority of facilities (85%) have an occupancy rates over 80%. Out of those, 39% are at maximum capacity and 46% are close to maximum capacity (with 81% to 90% of beds occupied).
Experts are concerned about a possible third wave of the virus in the state of São Paulo. They warn that during the second wave – from January to February – the number of people in the ICU jumped from 5,900 to 12,961 in March. Now, the average is 10,000 patients. The country has registered over 444,400 deaths due to COVID-19 and 15.8 million people have been diagnosed since the pandemic began.
4. Companies overcome 2020 losses and resume growth in the first quarter
A study based on the balance sheets of 322 non-financial Brazilian companies shows that there are signs of recovery in the first quarter thanks to the economic situation in other countries and the price of commodities on the foreign market. Companies not only overcame a R$ 37.4 billion (USD $7.0 billion) loss from the first quarter of 2020 but profited R$ 27.1 billion (USD $5.07 billion)in the first three months of 2021.
The mining and steel industries are noteworthy as they grew due to the high prices of iron and copper. Meatpacking companies as well as the food and beverage sector also saw signs of recovery. “I do not remember a quarter with results like this, whether operational or financial results. We had a combination of favorable export prices and recovery in the internal market,” says William Volpato, coordinator of Valor Data.
Valor Econômico: Empresas revertem perdas e crescem
5. Environment Minister suspected of smuggling lumber to U.S.
Environment Minister Ricardo Salles is suspected of allowing the smuggling of illegal lumber to the foreign market. Salles and the board of directors of the institute responsible for environmental actions, along with a number of executives, are under investigation by the Federal Police.
The investigation began after the U.S. government noticed illegal Brazilian wood being sent to the country. They warned Brazil, but the Ministry of Environment and environmental authorities ignored it, claiming the documents were no longer necessary to export wood. The U.S. government then warned the Federal Police. The police identified links between the illegal wood and financial transactions from 2012 to 2020 – amounting to R$ 14.1 million (USD $2.6 million) – to a legal practice of which Salles is a partner. The minister denies irregularities and says that he “works with respect for the law.”