March 26, 2021


1. COVID-19 death toll over 303,000; Butantan announces Brazilian-developed vaccine

Brazil has surpassed a total of 303,000 deaths due to the coronavirus. On Thursday, the country registered a new daily record with 97,586 people diagnoses. This is the largest number since March 17th, when 90,830 new cases were registered. As of last night, Brazil has had 12.3 million officially registered cases of COVID-19. A piece of good news was shared by Insituto Butantan – a São Paulo state government entity – with the announcement of the development of a 100% Brazilian vaccine. The institute has requested permission to begin human testing so that Butanvac can be validated. Butantan is responsible for the production and packaging of CoronaVac, the primary vaccine currently in use in Brazil.

This week, new Health Minister Marcelo Queiroga promised to triple the number of people being vaccinated to one million every day. In the previous week, the daily average number of vaccinations administered was 421,200. Brazilians have received 18,590,208 doses of the vaccine (14,074,577 received the first dose and 4,515,613 the second dose). This means that only 8.75% of the adult population have received one dose and 2.81% are fully vaccinated. In an attempt to curb the spread of the disease, São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, some other state capitals, and other cities are testing novel lockdown measures. In São Paulo, measures come into effect today and will continue through April 4th.

O Estado de S. Paulo: Butantan cria vacina brasileira contra Covid
Folha de S.Paulo: Brasil bate sucessivos recordes ruins na pandemia
UOL: Sem dizer como, ministro promete triplicar vacinação
G1: Leia mais notícias sobre a pandemia
Our World in Data: Acompanhe a vacinação no Brasil e no mundo

2. Bolsonaro creates COVID response committee, but still faces criticism

After one year of the coronavirus pandemic, Jair Bolsonaro has changed his tone and backed down on his original position regarding the disease. In an address to the union, the president said he will speed up vaccination efforts in the country and that he has met with state governors, ministers and the presidents of the Chamber of Deputies, the Senate and the Federal Supreme Court to create a committee establishing national measures to contain the virus.

State governors who were excluded from the meeting – including São Paulo’s Joao Doria – criticized the meeting. Hours after the meeting, Chamber of Deputies President Arthur Lira stated that the “political remedies” Congress has against the “series of errors” in the fight against the coronavirus are “well-known”, “bitter” and some even “fatal”, possibly alluding to an impeachment process. According to Bolsonaro, the national pact will “change the direction of the fight against the coronavirus.”

O Estado de S. Paulo: Bolsonaro recua e cria comitê contra Covid-19
O Globo: Presidente da Câmara faz discurso em tom de ameaça
O Estado de S. Paulo: Em pronunciamento, presidente omite e distorce fatos

3. Economists and executives demand government action against COVID-19

Economists, bankers, and business executives have signed an open letter demanding that the federal government adopt more effective measures to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, aiming to avoid further damage to the country. Over 1,500 people have signed a document that states: “It is key that from now on, public policies are based on reliable information and scientific evidence. There is no time to lose with futile debates and fake news.”

The letter was sent to President Jair Bolsonaro, to Congress and to the Federal Supreme Court, saying that the lack of an effective political response could result in tax revenue dropping by R$ 58 billion (USD $10.14 billion) and that delaying the vaccine will cost the nation R$ 131.4 billion (USD $22.98 billion). The president responded: “Some want me impose a lockdown, call me a denier, or say that I have an aggressive stance. With respect to science, lockdown measures do not work,” he said, distorting information from the World Health Organization.

Folha de S.Paulo: Manifesto cobra ações efetivas do governo contra Covid
O Estado de S. Paulo:
‘Respeitem a ciência, lockdown não deu certo’, diz Bolsonaro
Valor Econômico:
Empresas atuam para tentar conter colapso nacional
Folha de S.Paulo:
Leia a íntegra do manifesto

4. Federal budget prioritizes military and public works; health and social programs lose funding

Yesterday, Congress approved the 2021 Federal Budget with the transfer of R$ 26.5 billion (USD $4.6 billion) from employment benefits, salary discounts and Social Security to cover the costs of construction works resulting from parliamentary amendments. The military has also benefited. The armed forces will receive 22% of federal funds this year and will receive R$ 8.3 billion (USD $1.45 billion) of the R$ 37.8 billion (USD $6.6 billion) that will be distributed to ministries.

Investments in health, however, have dropped by R$ 200 million to R$ 125 billion (USD 21.86 billion) compared to the previous year. Considering the drop in revenue and of extraordinary resources that could be transferred to the sector, the Ministry of Health will receive R$ 36 billion (USD $6.3 billion) less than the year before. Military personnel will also receive salary increases, which could total R$ 7.1 billion (USD $1.24 billion) from public funds. Other federal public servants have had their salaries frozen through December.

Folha de S.Paulo: Congresso turbina emendas no Orçamento
O Estado de S. Paulo: Orçamento dá 1/5 dos investimentos aos militares

5. Federal Supreme Court rules that Sergio Moro was biased, annuls evidence from Lula’s trial

The second court of the Federal Supreme Court has annulled the trial against former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva on the ownership of a luxury apartment on the coast of São Paulo. Lula’s conviction had already been annulled in a different decision from the court, but the case will now have to begin again, as all evidence that was presented is no longer valid.

The court’s decision is considered to be one of the most significant blows to Operation Car Wash. According to experts, suspicions surrounding Sergio Moro’s neutrality as a judge is valid only in the case concerning the apartments. One day after the court made the announcement, Moro said he remained convinced about the decisions he made as a judge. “Brazil cannot recede and destroy the recent past of the fight against corruption,” he said in a statement.

Folha de S.Paulo: STF diz que juiz Moro foi parcial contra Lula
O Estado de S. Paulo: ‘O Brasil não pode retroceder’, afirma Moro
O Globo: Processo volta à estaca zero com a decisão