Updates on Coronavirus

  • April 09, 21 - 12:08 pm - LABS

    Brazilian Supreme Court orders Senate to investigate federal government performance in fighting pandemic

    On the same day that Brazil has more than 4,000 daily deaths due to COVID-19 for the second time, the Federal Supreme Court (STF in the acronym in Portuguese) determined that the Senate establish an investigation committee to verify possible omissions by the federal government in the fight against the pandemic.

    The start of an investigation committee exacerbates the political wear and tear that President Jair Bolsonaro has faced with Congress and the financial market.

    READ ALSO: In Brazil and Mexico, populist presidents Jair Bolsonaro and Lopez Obrador confound investors

    The request for an investigation committee was made in early February, but Senate President Rodrigo Pacheco had yet to determine the start of the investigation. Faced with the delay, senators called the supreme court to speed up the process.

    The STF decision states that the requirements for a “COVID-19 investigation committee”, as the commission is being called, have been met, with the signature of a third of the senators, an indication of what should be investigated and a deadline for the investigation.

    Pacheco told G1 that he was warned that the Supreme Court would order the investigation committee to start, but preferred to wait for the official decision of the supreme court. Pacheco had already stated that he considers the committee “inopportune” and that such an investigation, at that moment, would hinder the fight against the pandemic.

    READ ALSO: A tropical revival of fascist and Nazi expressions

    President Jair Bolsonaro reacted to the STF’s decision. This Friday morning, Bolsonaro criticized Minister Luís Roberto Barroso and stated that the minister is doing “judicial activism”.

    Second day with more than 4,000 deaths

    On Thursday (8), Brazil had 4,190 thousand deaths due to COVID-19, the second-worst day of the pandemic. As a result, the country reached 345,287 thousand deaths due to COVID-19.

  • April 09, 21 - 8:38 am - LABS

    Ecuador’s Lenin Moreno changes health minister for the fifth time since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis

    On Thursday, Ecuador’s President, Lenin Moreno, announced a new health minister – the fifth since the coronavirus pandemic began. Physician Camilo Salinas will now assume as Health Minister of Ecuador.

    The previous minister, Mauro Falconí, was only 19 days in office and was dismissed after facing protests for the disorganization to vaccinate the elderly in the country. On his Twitter, President Moreno said: “Our seniors deserve the utmost respect. What happened today has no justification. I have requested the resignation of the Minister of Health and he will be replaced by Dr. Camilo Salinas.”

    The crisis in Lenín Moreno’s office occurs at a time when COVID-19 is worsening in Ecuador (including several restriction measures in Quito and Guayaquil), and three days before the second round of the presidential elections. In the first round, Andrés Arauz (a former minister of Rafael Correa, who ruled the country from 2007 to 2017) got 32.7% of the votes, and Guillermo Lasso (a vocal critic of correísmo – a political movement characterized by state-led development projects and social spending funded largely by commodities exports) conquered 19.7%. Now, the two face each other in the runoff. 

  • April 08, 21 - 12:01 pm - LABS

    Brazil’s Butantan Institute puts vaccine production on hold due to lack of inputs

    The Coronavac, produced in Brazil by Butantan Institute in partnership with the Chinese laboratory Sinovac, will have its production temporarily discontinued due to lack of inputs, CNN Brasil reports, citing three sources familiar with the matter.

    Butantan will keep the delivery of vaccines next week, as it has 2.5 million doses already ready waiting for the quality control deadline, says the report.

    According to CNN, Butantan further informed that it will meet the deadlines set in contracts with the country’s Ministry of Health, despite the delay in the arrival of inputs. The institute has committed to deliver 46 million doses by the end of April.

    A new shipment of Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs) was scheduled to arrive from China by next Friday, April 9, but was postponed. In a press conference on Wednesday, São Paulo’s governor João Doria acknowledged the delay.

    Doria said at the conference that he reached out to the Chinese ambassador Yang Wanming, in the country’s capital, Brasília, through a phone call. Two days ago, Wanming posted on his Twitter account about a meeting with Brazil’s Minister of Health, Marcelo Queiroga, assuring that China would continue to send inputs to the country, recalls CNN.

    According to the news outlet, the new estimated arrival of 6,000 liters of APIs in São Paulo, enough to produce 10 million vaccine doses, is on April 15.

    The delay in shipping inputs, supplied to Butantan by China’s Sinovac, was caused due to a more intense vaccination campaign in China. Up to now, the country had been exporting a fair amount of their vaccines as they would have COVID-19 infections under control.

  • April 08, 21 - 9:35 am - LABS

    A new variant of coronavirus is identified in Belo Horizonte, Brazil

    Scientists have identified a new variant of the coronavirus in Belo Horizonte city. Researchers from the Institute of Biological Sciences of the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG) and from the Research and Development Sector of the Pardini Group sequenced 85 SARS-CoV-2 genomes from samples collected in the metropolitan region of Belo Horizonte and detected two new genomes with mutations not yet reported.

    According to a note released by UFMG, the two genomes have a set of 18 mutations.

    These two new genomes are in samples collected on February 27 and 28, 2021 and there is no evidence of an epidemiological link between them, such as kinship or residential region, which reinforces the possibility that the variant is already circulating.

  • April 07, 21 - 2:10 pm - LABS

    Mexican and Brazilian Presidents said they “might be vaccinated” against COVID-19

    Mexico‘s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) announced at a press conference that he would receive the coronavirus vaccine, despite having been advised by his physician not to do so, reported La Tercera.

    At first, Mexico‘s President had ruled out receiving the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, arguing that his doctor assured him that he has “enough antibodies and it is not essential.” Later, he recently announced that he will get the immunizer in the next “15 to 20 days”.

    Brazil‘s President Jair Bolsonaro followed the same path. He said on Saturday that he saw no problem in looking for a health clinic and getting the vaccine. “I am already immunized [because I had COVID-19] and if I think I should be vaccinated, I will, but I think this vaccine of mine has to be given to someone who has not contracted the virus and is at a much greater risk,” he said in a brief conversation with journalists, reported O Estado de São Paulo.

    On Wednesday, in an event in Southern Brazil, Bolsonaro defended the (non-existent) “preventive treatment against COVID-19”, and said that he does not like the situation of having to pay emergency aid for informal workers who cannot work. Bolsonaro is against lockdown policies, and stated that the Brazilian army will not assist governors in lockdown policies, nor will him implement a national lockdown.

    “We do what is possible [to control the pandemic] even change ministers,” he said. Bolsonaro has established a cabinet reshuffle in recent days, including the change of Brazil’s Minister of Health.

    “Imagine if PT [Workers’ Party, from Lula, Bolsonaro’s leftist nemesis] was here. Look at the neighboring country in South America [referring to Argentina], look at the population there,” he added.

  • April 07, 21 - 9:31 am - LABS

    Brazilian Deputies approve a bill that allows private firms to acquire COVID-19 vaccines to employees

    The Brazilian Chamber of Deputies on Tuesday approved the basic text of a bill that facilitates the purchase of vaccines by private companies. If the bill is approved by the Senate, companies will be able to buy vaccines for their employees without waiting for the national campaign to reach all priority groups, as prescribed by Brazilian law today.

    Yet, the vaccination of employees must follow the priority criteria established in Brazil‘s National Immunization Program. Other workers who provide services to them may also be vaccinated, including interns, freelancers, and employees of temporary or outsourced companies.

    The bill maintained the requirement that those companies that buy vaccines donate to the Brazilian public health system SUS an amount equal to that applied to employees.

    The text approved by the deputies also allows the purchase of vaccines by companies without the endorsement of Anvisa (Brazil‘s health regulator). It means that COVID-19 shots approved in other countries could be dispensed.

    These purchases, if made with laboratories that have already sold vaccines to the federal government, may occur only after the contract has been fully complied and the immunizers have been handed over to the Brazil‘s Ministry of Health.

    Anvisa has approved five vaccines in Brazil so far, two for emergency use (Janssen and Coronavac) and the others already with definitive registration (AstraZeneca and Pfizer). AstraZeneca is counted twice, as it considers doses imported from India and those produced in Brazil.

    Among the vaccines provided for in the Ministry of Health schedule, two are not yet authorized for use in Brazil: Covaxin (India) and Sputnik V (Russia).

    LABS covered Brazilian companies attempt to acquire AstraZeneca’s shots in the beginning of the year. AstraZeneca and BlackRock denied any talks.

    According to the Agência Câmara de Notícias, voting on the highlights that may change the text will continue on Wednesday (7), in a plenary session scheduled for 1:55 pm.

  • April 06, 21 - 7:06 pm - LABS

    Brazil surpasses 4,000 deaths due to COVID-19 in a day

    On Tuesday (6), Brazil broke a new and sad record: it registered 4,195 deaths from COVID-19, according to a survey by Conass (the National Council of Health Secretaries). This amounts to one death every 20 seconds.

    According to the Our World in Data platform, linked to the University of Oxford, only two other countries have had more than 4,000 victims of the disease in one day: the United States in January this year, and Peru, in August 2020.

    Since the beginning of the novel coronavirus pandemic, Brazil has registered over 337,000 deaths due to the disease, and over 13 million people infected by Sars-Cov-2 and its variants.

  • April 06, 21 - 10:23 am - LABS

    Chile heads to a postponement of elections; Peruvian elections are maintained so far

    Chile‘ Senate approved on Monday a postponement for five weeks of municipal and regional elections, besides the elections of the legislators responsible for the new Constitution. The measure is related to the increase of the COVID-19 cases in the country, and it is pending a final sanction of the deputies, to be voted on Tuesday.

    In the next elections, Chileans must elect the members of the constitutional convention that will draft the country’s new Constitution, after the result of the October 25 plebiscite, in which 79% of the population opted for the new constitution. At the same time, mayors, councilors, and regional governors will be elected.

    Peruvian elections

    Meanwhile, Peru’s per capita death toll is one in every 630 inhabitants. Currently, Peru is facing the third wave of coronavirus. For now, the Presidential elections in Peru are scheduled for April 11. Besides the health crisis, Peru lives a political crisis. In six months, the country had three presidents due to reports of corruption. In Peru, voting is mandatory.

    Congress forced the resignation of Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, originally elected in 2016, and his successor, Martín Vizcarra, was impeached in November 2020. The current president, Francisco Sagasti, has served on an interim basis since then. The top candidates for the election include populist Yonhy Lescano, who has spoken out against major copper miners, leftist Verónika Mendoza, and centrist ex-soccer goalkeeper George Forsyth. But none has much over 10% of the vote, current polls show. New officials will be inaugurated in July.

    Ecuador’s elections

    Also on April 11, takes place the second round of the presidential election in Ecuador. In the first round, Andrés Arauz (a former minister of Rafael Correa, who ruled the country from 2007 to 2017) got 32.7% of the votes, and Guillermo Lasso (a vocal critic of correísmo – a political movement characterized by state-led development projects and social spending funded largely by commodities exports) conquered 19.7%. Now, the two face each other in the runoff. 

  • April 06, 21 - 8:57 am - LABS

    Brazil resumes emergency aid program to low income people

    Brazil’s state-owned bank Caixa Economica Federal begins to pay this Tuesday the first installment of the new round of Brazil‘s government emergency aid. The calendar starts with workers born in January who are not registered with Bolsa Família (Brazil‘s major income distribution program).

    The emergency aid program (created to mitigate pandemic losses in 2020) was resumed with smaller amounts and scope: there will be four installments from April to August 2021 with values of BRL 150, BRL 250, and BRL 375.

    On the other hand, Brazil‘s government did not resume assistance to companies with the return of policies such as credit and reduced working hours for workers (compensated by the government), largely due to budgetary difficulties.

  • April 06, 21 - 8:42 am - LABS

    Paraguay starts quarantining travelers from Brazil to contain the Brazilian coronavirus variant

    Paraguay has just joined the list of countries that adopt control measures for the entry of people from Brazil into the country to control the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Photo: Paraguay’s Ministry of Health

    The neighboring country announced that, in addition to presenting a negative PCR test, Brazilians or tourists coming from Brazil should be quarantined for a period of 7 days, at home or in health facilities.

    The new entry protocol for travelers from Brazil was adopted to try to reduce the risk of circulation of the Brazilian strain, which is more contagious.

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