March 19, 2021


1. Brazil faces increasing ICU occupancy, São Paulo moves holidays forward to contain COVID-19

The city of São Paulo – which has the largest hospital network in Brazil – registered the first death of a patient who was waiting for an ICU bed. São Paulo’s City Hall has brought five holidays forward in an effort to curb the movement of people for ten days, from March 26th to April 4th. The vehicle rotation system – which prohibits vehicles from being on the road depending on the last number of their number plate – will remain in effect from 8pm to 5am as of Monday in order to curb traffic at night – instead of 7am to 10 am and from 5pm to 8pm as it stood previously.

Brazil is facing the largest health crisis in its history, according to a study by Fiocruz. In 25 states and the Federal District, the occupancy rate for ICU beds is at 80%. Only Roraima, which has a 73% occupancy rate, is not in a critical state. The lack of health professionals is an obstacle for adding new ICU beds. The Association of ICU, Hospitals and Health Insurance Professionals have warned the government about the lack of materials and drugs for patients on ventilators. The Ministry of Health has ordered pharmaceutical companies to limit exports in order to retain medicines for use in Brazil.

O Estado de S. Paulo: SP antecipa feriados para conter coronavírus
TV Globo: Brasil passa pela maior crise hospitalar da história
Portal Fiocruz: Boletim aponta colapso sanitário e hospitalar no país
Folha de S.Paulo: Associações temem falta de medicamentos para intubados
O Estado de S.Paulo: Ministério requisita estoque de medicamentos

2. With only a small portion of the population vaccinated, administration replaces health minister

The new health minister, cardiologist Marcelo Queiroga – nominated earlier this week as a replacement for General Eduardo Pazuello – said that the administration “does not have a magic wand” to solve the current state of the pandemic and that the “alternate way” of dealing with the issue is to “follow scientific recommendations.” According to Queiroga, health policies in the country belong to “Jair Bolsonaro’s administration and not the health minister.” Still, he has advocated for the vaccine and the use of masks to contain the spread of the disease.

The Ministry of Health says that it has purchased 562.9 million doses of the vaccine for this year, but there is no guarantee that they will receive the drugs. As of Thursday, 11 million people had received the first dose of the vaccine, just 5.19% of Brazil’s population. The second dose of the vaccine has been given to 4 million people (1.9%). Brazil has registered nearly 300,000 deaths due to the virus and 12 million people have been diagnosed with the disease.

O Globo: ‘Não tem vara de condão’, diz novo ministro da Saúde
Folha de S.Paulo: Governo fica com dois ministros da Saúde
G1: Leia mais notícias sobre a pandemia
Our World in Data: Acompanhe a vacinação no Brasil e no mundo

3. Majority blame president for the worsening of the pandemic but oppose impeachment

A poll by Datafolha shows that there is trend of negative assessments of President Jair Bolsonaro. According to the poll, 43% of Brazilians think he is to blame for the state of the pandemic in the country. Governors face blame according to 17% of people, mayors according to 9% and the people according to 6%. The number of people who think Bolsonaro’s management of the health crisis is bad or awful increased by six points from to 54% this week compared to January, while. His president’s approval rating dropped four points to 22% in the same time frame.

The poll also shows that although most people think the president is to blame, the majority (50%) are against starting an impeachment process and only 46% are in favor of it. The results indicate that opposition to impeachment is decreasing in comparison to the previous poll in January, when 53% of people were against impeachment and 42% were in favor. Members of the administration say that only an increase in vaccination rates can reverse president’s disapproval.

Folha de S.Paulo: Rejeição a Bolsonaro na pandemia bate recorde
O Globo: Para governo, só vacinação reverterá rejeição
Folha de S.Paulo: 50% são contra impeachment e 46% aprovam

4. Bolsonaro and Doria cut tax rates on the same day

Political rivals Jair Bolsonaro and João Doria both announced separate tax reductions to improve the economy and benefit consumers on the same day. On Wednesday, the Ministry of Economy reduced taxes on electronic equipment imports and capital assets by 10%, benefiting companies who buy machinery and equipment, as well as consumers buying cellphones and computers. The cut could result in an annual loss in revenue of USD $250 million.

In São Paulo, also on Wednesday, the state government decided to reduce the ICMS (Tax on the Circulation of Goods and Services) on pasteurized milk to zero. It also reduced the tax on beef from 13.3% to 7% starting on April 1st. Taxes on both products had increased in January. The measures could result in an annual loss of R$ 50 million (USD $9.16 million) for the state. Reducing benefits for sports and culture could be an alternative to cover the costs. Doria’s plans include a line of credit valued at R$ 100 million (USD $18.32 million) for restaurants, bars, gyms and other sectors that have been affected by the pandemic.

Valor Econômico: Governo federal reduz imposto de importação em 10%
Valor Econômico: SP isenta leite e reduz ICMS sobre carne
O Estado de S. Paulo: Esporte e cultura podem compensar redução de ICMS

5. Basic interest rates rise for the first time in six years, reaching 2.75%

For the first time since 2015, the Central Bank increased the basic interest rate to 2.75% from 2%. The announcement took the financial market by surprise, as a smaller increase was expected. The bank made the decision following a persistent increase in the price of goods and an expectation of increased inflation. The bank also indicated that a new adjustment could be made in May, increasing the rate to 3.505% if inflation projections and risk balance do not change.

An immediate result of the adjustment of the interest rate is a decrease in the price of the U.S. dollar, which has risen 7% this year alone. According to experts, the currency is a concern for the central bank, as it puts the internal economy at risk of price increases. This has been the case for fuel and some food items, the main culprits for the y/y inflation in February, having reached 5.20% – the highest such rate registered in five years.

Folha de S.Paulo: Taxa de juros sobe pela primeira vez desde 2015
Valor Econômico: Para economistas, Banco Central acelerou o passo
6 Minutos: BC indica taxa de juros maior em menos tempo