Brazil asks women to delay pregnancy over new coronavirus variant fears


Outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Sao Carlos
A medical worker administers medication to an intubated coronavirus disease (COVID-19) patient at a UPA (Emergency Service Unit) in Sao Carlos, Brazil April 16, 2021. REUTERS/Amanda Perobelli

April 16, 2021

By Eduardo Simões

SAO PAULO (Reuters) – Brazil asked women on Friday to delay getting pregnant until the worst of the pandemic passes, saying the virus variant that is devastating the South American country appears to affect expectant mothers more than earlier versions of the coronavirus.

The recommendation comes as Brazil continues to be one of the global epicenters of the pandemic, with more Brazilians dying of the virus each day than anywhere else in the world.

Hospitals are buckling under the strain and stocks of drugs needed for intubating severely ill patients are running perilously low, with Brazil turning to international partners for help with emergency supplies.

“If it’s possible, delay pregnancy a little until a better moment,” Health Ministry official Raphael Parente said during a news conference on Friday.

He said the recommendation was partly due to the stress on the health system but also due to the more easily transmissible Brazilian variant known as P.1.

“The clinical experience of specialists shows that this new variant acts more aggressively in pregnant women,” Parente said.

Previously, COVID-19 cases during pregnancy were focused on the final trimester and birth, whereas lately there have been more serious cases in the second and occasionally first trimester, he said.

Parente did not give any more details.

The P.1 variant, first discovered in the Amazon city of Manaus, has quickly become dominant in Brazil. It is thought to be a major factor behind a massive second wave of infections that has brought the country’s death toll to over 350,000 – the second highest in the world behind the United States.

Brazil’s outbreak is increasingly affecting younger people, with hospital data showing that in March more than half of all patients in intensive care were aged 40 or younger.

President Jair Bolsonaro has opposed lockdowns and held large events in which he often does not wear a mask. He has only recently embraced vaccines as a possible solution, but the inoculation rollout has been plagued by delays and missed targets for getting people inoculated.

This week, vaccinations were stopped in several cities due to a shortage of vaccine supply, according to local media.

The surge in COID-19 cases has also left hospitals short of sedatives needed for patients who require mechanical ventilation.

An emergency shipment of the drugs arrived in Brazil late on Thursday from China, while donations from Spain are expected to arrive next week.

Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo have both sounded the alarm over shortages, with Sao Paulo’s health secretary saying this week that the city’s ability to care for seriously ill COVID-19 patients is on the verge of collapse.

Despite the shortage of drugs and 85% of intensive care beds occupied, Sao Paulo announced on Friday it would begin reopening stores and restaurants, saying the number of new hospitalizations had fallen sufficiently to do so safely.

(Reporting by Eduardo Simoes, writing by Stephen Eisenhammer; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

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Brazil ‘needs $10bn to reach zero emissions’ says minister



Brazil’s environment minister says the country needs $10bn (£7.2bn) a year in foreign aid in order to reach zero emissions by 2050.

The move would mean that Brazil could achieve the symbolic figure 10 years earlier than currently planned.

It comes ahead of US President Joe Biden’s climate summit next week.

Brazil’s environmental policies have brought international condemnation since President Jair Bolsonaro took office two years ago.

He has encouraged agriculture and mining activities in the Amazon, the world’s largest rainforest.

Environment Minister Ricardo Salles said $1bn would be used to reach zero illegal deforestation in the Amazon by 2030.

He added that a third of the money would be used to recruit more environmental agents, potentially from the national military police. The remainder would be used to invest in sustainable development of the Amazon, he told Reuters news agency.

Mr Salles said he does not expect a deal to be made before next week’s virtual summit.

His call for foreign aid comes as Mr Bolsonaro’s government is attempting to negotiate a deal with the US in which it would receive financial aid in return for protecting the Amazon.

The move has been criticised by environmentalists and indigenous groups who say they haven’t been consulted on the plans.

A report by Brazil’s space agency (Inpe) released in 2020, said that deforestation of the Amazon had surged to its highest level in 12 years. The Amazon is home to about three million species of plants and animals, and one million indigenous people.

Mr Bolsonaro has previously clashed with Inpe over its deforestation data, accusing it of smearing Brazil’s reputation.

Vice-President Hamílton Mourão said Brazil has a set goal to reduce illegal deforestation by 15-20% per year in order to eliminate it by 2030. He said that the target was mentioned in a letter sent by Mr Bolsonaro to Mr Biden earlier this week.

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Covid: Brazil has more than 4,000 deaths in 24 hours for first time



Covid: Brazil has more than 4,000 deaths in 24 hours for first time

Brazil has recorded more than 4,000 Covid-related deaths in 24 hours for the first time, as a more contagious variant fuels a surge in cases.

Hospitals are overcrowded, with people dying as they wait for treatment in some cities, and the health system is on the brink of collapse in many areas.

The country’s total death toll is now almost 337,000, second only to the US.

But President Jair Bolsonaro continues to oppose any lockdown measures to curb the outbreak.

He argues that the damage to the economy would be worse than the effects of the virus itself, and has tried to reverse some of the restrictions imposed by local authorities in the courts.

Speaking to supporters outside the presidential residence on Tuesday, he criticised quarantine measures and suggested without evidence that they were linked to obesity and depression. He did not comment on the 4,195 deaths recorded in the previous 24 hours.

To date, Brazil has recorded more than 13 million cases of coronavirus, according to the health ministry. Some 66,570 people died with Covid-19 in March, more than double the previous monthly record.

“Brazil now… is a threat to the entire effort of the international community to control the pandemic,” Dr Miguel Nicolelis, who has been closely tracking cases in the country, told the BBC.

“If Brazil is not under control, then the planet is not going to be safe, because we are brewing new variants every week… and they are going to cross borders,” he said.

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Silversea’s 139-day world cruise sells out in one day


A luxury cruise line had such intense demand for a five-month long cruise journey, it sold out in a single day.

Luxury cruise line Silversea says it has sold every spot on its 139-day cruise around the world, set to sail around the southern hemisphere in 2023.

The Monaco-based line, which is owned by Royal Caribbean, announced this week the quick bookings for the “South Side Story – All the World’s a Stage” trip as the most successful in the brand’s history.

The Silver Shadow ship will depart Sydney on January 10, 2023, making stops in 66 destinations in 34 countries on five continents, with a final destination of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, set for May 28.

“We are delighted to have seen unprecedented demand for our World Cruise 2023, South Side Story, which sold out within hours of its general opening,” Silversea president Roberto Martinoli said in a press release.

“The most successful World Cruise launch in the history of our cruise line, this triumph pays testament to the strong demand we are seeing in the market, particularly from affluent, sophisticated travellers.”

First stops of the 139-day itinerary include calls in Tasmania, New Zealand, Melanesia, Micronesia, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Bangkok and Singapore. From there, the Silver Shadow will cruise to Mahé, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, and explore more of the Seychelles.

Travellers will experience Cape Town in South Africa, Tanzania, Madagascar, Mauritius, Réunion and Zanzibar, a UNESCO-listed World Heritage Site.

The luxury liner will cruise along the west coast of Africa to Dakar, hitting Namibia. Angola, and Ghana, among others.

Across the Atlantic, travellers will be treated to an epic cruise on the Amazon River, a first for Silversea. Visiting two river towns in Brazil and Île Royale in French Guiana, the Silver Shadow will tour the Caribbean, stopping in Mayreau, St. John’s, Gustavia, and San Juan, before reaching Florida.

As expected, this grand tour of the Southern Hemisphere costs a pretty penny. Fares for the 2023 world cruise range from $74,000 ($AU97,600) to $278,000 ($AU366,700) per guest, based on double occupancy.

The luxury Silver Shadow, which was recently refurbished, has a capacity of 388 guests.

This article originally appeared on Fox News and was reproduced with permission

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Worst may lie ahead for Brazil in coronavirus pandemic with deaths poised to pass US total


Brazil already accounts for one-quarter of the world’s daily coronavirus deaths, but the nation could be on the verge of a far greater crisis, global health experts warn.

The nation’s seven-day average of 2,400 deaths stands to reach to 3,000 within weeks,  according to six different epidemiologists.

That figure is approaching the worst level seen by the United States, even though Brazil has only two-thirds of its population.

Spikes of daily deaths could soon hit 4,000 after hitting 3,650 last Friday.

Having glimpsed the abyss, there is growing recognition shutdowns are no longer avoidable.

Restrictions on activity implemented last year were half-hearted and consistently sabotaged by President Jair Bolsonaro, who sought to stave off economic doom.

He remains unconvinced of any need for lockdowns, which leaves local leaders pursuing a patchwork of measures to prevent the death toll from spiralling further.

It may be too late, with a more contagious variant rampaging across Brazil.

For the first time, new daily cases topped 100,000 on March 25, with many more uncounted.

A dark-skinned man in white hat and face mask looks away as he is injected by white syringe
Only 2 per cent of Brazilians have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.(

AP: Silvia Izquierdo

)

Miguel Nicolelis, a professor of neurobiology at Duke University who advised several Brazilian governors and mayors on pandemic control, anticipates the total death toll reaching 500,000 by July and exceeding that of the US by year-end.

“We have surpassed levels never imagined for a country with a public health care system, a history of efficient immunisation campaigns and health workers who are second to none in the world,” Mr Nicolelis said.

The system is already buckling, with almost all states’ intensive care units near or at full capacity.

Dr Jose Antonio Curiati, a supervisor at Sao Paulo’s Hospital das Clinicas, the biggest hospital medical in Latin America, said its beds are full, but patients keep arriving.

The city’s oxygen supply is not guaranteed, and stocks of sedatives required for intubation in intensive care units will soon run out.

The back of an ambulance is opened to reveal a masked patient surrounded by medical staff at dusk.
The spike in coronavirus cases means that Brazil’s health system is struggling to cope.(

AP: Felipe Dana

)

On March 17 in the northeastern Piaui state, nurse Polyena Silveira wept beside a COVID-19 patient who died on the floor for lack of beds at her public hospital. 

“When he was gone, I had two minutes to feel sorry before moving to the next patient,” 33-year-old Ms Silveira said.

‘Coordinated action’ needed

Brazil’s state-run science and technology institute, Fiocruz, has called for a 14-day lockdown to reduce transmission by 40 per cent.

Natalia Pasternak, a microbiologist who presides over the Question of Science Institute, pointed to the city of Araraquara as a success story after seeing its cases and deaths drop after imposing a lockdown.

Ms Pasternak declined to estimate Brazil’s looming daily death toll but said the trend is for continued growth if nothing is done.

“We need coordinated action, and that’s probably not going to happen because the federal government has no real interest in pursuing preventative actions,” Ms Pasternak said.

“[Mayors and governors] are trying to implement preventative measures, but separately and in their own ways. This isn’t the best approach, but it’s better than nothing.”

Minas Gerais, Brazil’s second-most populous state, has closed non-essential shops, while Espirito Santo state will enter lockdown this week.

An aerial view of a beautiful beach with buildings beside and mountain in background.
Rio’s Copacabana beach is deserted due to reinstated COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.(

AP: Lucas Dumphreys

)

Brazil’s two biggest cities, Rio De Janeiro and Sao Paulo, have imposed extensive restrictions on non-essential activities.

Their state authorities brought forward holidays to create a 10-day period of repose, which started on Friday.

President undermines health guidelines

Restrictive measures, however, are only as strong as citizens’ compliance.

And Mr Bolsonaro continues to undermine their willingness by painting even partial shutdown as an assault on one’s right to earn an honest day’s wages.

“We need to open our eyes and understand this is no joke,” said Rio’s Mayor Eduardo Paes, stressing that no mayor wants to cause unemployment.

“No one knows this disease’s limit. No one knows how many variants could emerge.”

A middle-aged woman in face mask holds Brazilian flag at front of signs in street rally.
Supporters of President Jair Bolsonaro protested the start of a 10-day period of increased restrictions in Rio.(

AP: Silvia Izquierdo

)

Hundreds of protesters marched along Rio’s Copacabana beach over the weekend, with many sporting the green-and-yellow shirts that are a hallmark of pro-Bolsonaro rallies, while declining to wear masks.

They chanted “We want to work!” and directed vitriol at Mr Paes.

The World Health Organization’s director, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has called for everyone in Brazil to muster a serious response “whether it’s the government or the people”.

“It’s a concerted effort of all actors that will really reverse this upward trend,” he said.

“Especially we’re worried about the [weekly] death rate, which doubled in just one month from 7,000 to 15,000.”

Variants add to challenges

The spread of the virus has been turbocharged by more contagious variants which have become cause for concern beyond Brazil’s borders, not just in South America.

Dr Anthony Fauci, the top US infectious disease expert, said his team would be meeting with Brazilian authorities and are “quite concerned” about the situation in Brazil.

The US has seen its death toll plunge since January, amid a massive vaccine rollout, with its seven-day average dipping below 1,000.

By contrast, Brazil’s vaccine rollout has been strained, at best.

The government bet big on a single vaccine provider, AstraZeneca, while for months rejecting offers to purchase others.

Only after delivery delays from AstraZeneca jeopardised the rollout did Brazil’s health ministry begin buying vaccines — but too late for most deliveries to arrive in the first half of this year.

The nation has fully vaccinated fewer than 2 per cent of its citizens, which experts widely consider an embarrassment for a country long regarded as a global model for vaccination programs.

More than 500 of the nation’s most influential economists and executives wrote an open letter last week calling for mass vaccination, while decrying the situation.

They said that controversy regarding the economic impacts of social distancing is a false dilemma and all levels of government should be prepared to implement emergency lockdown.

While Brazil’s economy did not contract as much as regional peers last year, the worsening health crisis casts a shadow over 2021, according to William Jackson, chief emerging markets economist at Capital Economics.

GDP will return to pre-crisis levels late this year, at the earliest, marking a weak recovery relative to other emerging markets.

Monica de Bolle, a Brazilian senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington, was more pessimistic, and expects another recession in 2021.

“All in all, it’s a huge disaster,” said Ms de Bolle, who has done postgraduate studies in immunology and genetics.

“Could have been avoided… wasn’t. Very difficult to fix now.

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Brazil has recorded its worst run of COVID-19 deaths since the pandemic began



Brazil has reported 2216 COVID-19 deaths in the past 24 hours, the third day in a row that fatalities exceeded 2,000 in the worst run of deaths since the pandemic began a year ago.

The health ministry also reported 85,663 new coronavirus infections, its second-highest number for one day, as the pandemic surges in South American country driven by a highly contagious new local variant.

The World Health Organisation said the state of the COVID-19 pandemic in Brazil was very concerning and serious action needs to be taken.

Brazil has now registered 11,363,380 cases in all, passing India as the country with the second worst outbreak.

The official death toll has risen to 275,105 in the world’s second-deadliest outbreak outside the United States.

On Wednesday, Brazil had a record toll of 2286 dead, followed on Thursday by 2233 more deaths, the health ministry said.

Far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, who has minimised the gravity of the virus and said he will not have a vaccination, is facing mounting criticism for failing to secure a timely supply of doses for the populace, with less than three per cent vaccinated so far.

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Friday that everyone in Brazil should take the situation seriously, adding that neighbouring countries could be affected.

“Unless serious measures are taken the upward trend now flooding the health system and becoming more than its capacity will result in more deaths,” he said at a news conference in Geneva.

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Brazil COVID-19 variant can re-infect people, scientists warn


London: A highly transmissible COVID-19 variant that emerged in Brazil and has now been found in at least 20 countries can re-infect people who previously recovered from the disease, scientists say.

In a study of the mutant virus’ emergence and its spread in the Amazon jungle city of Manaus, the scientists said the variant – known as P.1 – has a “unique constellation of mutations” and had very rapidly become the dominant variant circulating there.

Relatives help a funeral worker, wearing protective gear, remove a body from a home in Manaus, Brazil, last year.Credit:AP

Out of 100 people in Manaus who had previously recovered from infection with the coronavirus, “somewhere between 25 and 61 of them are susceptible to re-infection with P.1,” said Nuno Faria, a virus expert at Imperial College London, who co-led the research which has not yet been peer reviewed.

The scientists estimated that P.1 was 1.4 to 2.2 times more transmissible than the initial form of the virus.

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Covid-19: Officials hunt Brazil virus variant case in England



The whereabouts of one infected person is unknown, as they did not give their full contact details.

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Brazil unemployment rate falls to 13.9% in quarter through December



FILE PHOTO: A woman writes down on her phone a job opportunity from listings posted on a light pole in downtown Sao Paulo, Brazil, September 30, 2020. REUTERS/Amanda Perobelli

February 26, 2021

By Jamie McGeever

BRASILIA (Reuters) – Brazil’s unemployment rate ended last year at 13.9%, figures showed on Friday, extending a recent dip as workers returning to the labor market found jobs, but the average jobless rate in 2020 was the highest since comparable records began in 2012.

That was down from 14.1% in the three months to November, statistics agency IBGE said, in line with the median forecast in a Reuters poll of economists and slipping further from the record 14.6% in the three months to September.

Brazil’s unemployment rate ended 2019 at 11.0%.

The average unemployment rate last year was 13.5%, IBGE said, up from 11.9% the year before and the highest since the series began eight years ago.

The IBGE figures showed 86.2 million Brazilians had work, up 4.5%, or 3.7 million people, from the July-September period, although still down 8.9%, or 8.4 million people, from the same period a year earlier.

The number of Brazilians officially unemployed in the three months to December dipped slightly to 13.9 million from 14.1 million in the prior three-month period, IBGE said, but that was up almost 20% from a year ago.

The under-employment rate fell to 28.7% from 30.3% in the July-September period, while the average underemployment rate last year was a record 28.1%, IBGE said.

The number of under-employed fell by 1.1 million to 32 million, IBGE said. That was still 22.5% higher than the same period a year earlier, or up almost 6 million more people.

The workforce stood at 100.1 million people, up 3.5 million from the three months through September, and the number of people out of the workforce entirely fell by 2.3 million to 76.3 million, IBGE said.

Compared with a year earlier, however, the workforce is still down 6.1 million people, and there are almost 11 million more people out of the workforce completely, IBGE noted.

(Reporting by Jamie McGeever; editing by Barbara Lewis)



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Brazil confirmed COVID-19 cases pass 9 million: health ministry





FILE PHOTO: Health workers transport a COVID-19 patient from a Brazilian Air Force airplane after arriving from Porto Velho, Rondonia state, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, at Salgado Filho international airport in Porto Alegre, Brazil, January 27, 2021. REUTERS/Diego Vara

January 28, 2021

BRASILIA (Reuters) – Brazil has had 61,811 new confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus reported in the past 24 hours, and 1,386 deaths from COVID-19, the health ministry said on Thursday.

The South American country has now registered 9,058,687 cases since the pandemic began, while the official death toll has risen to 221,547, according to ministry data, in the world’s third worst outbreak outside the United States and India and its second-deadliest.

(Reporting by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Chris Reese)




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