Brazilian Legend Ronaldinho Released From Paraguay Detention After Five Months

In this file photo taken on March 07, 2020 Brazilian retired football player Ronaldinho (C) and his brother Roberto Assis (R) arrive at Asuncion’s Justice Palace to appear before a public prosecutor who will decide whether to grant them bail or not following their irregular entry to the country, in Asuncion. – (Photo by Norberto DUARTE / AFP)

Former Brazil star Ronaldinho was released Monday by a Paraguayan judge after five months in detention over a forged passport.

Judge Gustavo Amarilla also released Ronaldinho’s brother Roberto de Assis Moreira, who also had been held for a month in jail and another four months under house arrest in a hotel in Paraguay’s capital, Asuncion, for the same charge.

The 40-year-old former World Cup winner “is free to travel to whatever country in the world he wants but he must inform us if he changes his permanent residence” for a period of one year, the judge said.

“He has no restrictions except for the fulfilment of reparations for damage to society.”

Dressed in jeans, a black beret and black shirt, Ronaldinho accepted the terms of his release, which include payment of $90,000 damages. His brother, who is also Ronaldinho’s business manager, must pay $110,000.

The pair are also expected to appear before a judge in Brazil every three months — Ronaldinho for a year and his brother for two.

Amarilla accepted a recommendation by four prosecutors to avoid the need for an oral trial.

“There is no indication that he has any personal characteristics or criminal behaviour that … would put society at risk,” the prosecutor said prior to Monday’s trial.

Prosecutors did not believe Ronaldinho took part in the plan to manufacture the fake Paraguayan passports but believed de Assis Moreira was aware that the passports were false.

The brothers arrived in Paraguay on March 4 without any issues, with Ronaldinho, the 2005 Ballon d’Or winner, due to take part in an event in support of disadvantaged children.

However, two days later, the pair were taken into police custody when investigators raided their hotel following the discovery they had fake documents.

After being held in a police station in Asuncion, where Ronaldinho celebrated his 40th birthday on March 21, the two men had been under house arrest for more than four months in a luxury hotel in the capital, on bail of $1.6 million.

The investigation has since expanded into a case of possible money laundering.

Some 18 people have already been arrested in connection with the case, most of them immigration officials or police officers.

Ronaldinho, considered one of the greatest footballers of all time, was crucial in Brazil’s 2002 World Cup win.

He played for European giants such as Barcelona, AC Milan and Paris Saint-Germain during a hugely successful 10-year stint in Europe.

He won the Champions League and two La Liga titles with Braca and Serie A with Milan.

After returning home to Brazil he won the Copa Libertadores — South America’s equivalent of the Champions League — with Atletico Mineiro.

AFP

Paraguayan Hearing Into Ex-PSG Star Ronaldinho’s Fake Passport Opens

In this file photo taken on March 07, 2020 Brazilian retired football player Ronaldinho (C) and his brother Roberto Assis (R) arrive at Asuncion’s Justice Palace to appear before a public prosecutor who will decide whether to grant them bail or not following their irregular entry to the country, in Asuncion. (Photo by Norberto DUARTE / AFP)

 

 

After six months under arrest in Paraguay, former Brazil football star Ronaldinho was set for a hearing on Monday on charges of travelling with false documents, according to judicial sources.

Judge Gustavo Amarilla is due to start the hearing in Asuncion at 14:00 local time (1800 GMT). Ronaldinho’s brother Roberto has also been charged.

The public prosecutor’s office has recommended Ronaldinho pay a $90,000 fine for “damage to society” and is freed to return to Brazil where the former Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain player would also be expected to appear before a judge every three months for a year.

“There is no indication that he has any personal characteristics or criminal behaviour that…would put society at risk,” the prosecutor said.

 

File photo: Brazilian retired football player Ronaldinho arrives in Asuncion’s Prosecution to declare after his irregular entry to the country, in Asuncion, Paraguay, on March 5, 2020./ AFP

 

Prosecutors have recommended that Roberto pay a $110,000 fine and appear before a judge every three months for two years.

Prosecutors do not believe Ronaldinho took part in the plan to manufacture the fake Paraguayan passports. They do think Roberto was aware that the passports were false.

Ronaldinho and Roberto, in Paraguay to promote a book, were arrested on March 6.

After being held in a police station in Asuncion, where the 2005 Ballon d’Or celebrated his 40th birthday on March 21, the two men have been under house arrest for almost five months in a luxury hotel in the capital, on bail of $1.6 million.

Some 18 people have already been arrested in connection with the case, most of them immigration officials or police officers.

AFP

Brazil Coronavirus Death Toll Crosses 100,000

In this file photo taken on May 30, 2020 gravediggers wearing protective clothing carry the coffin of a victim of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 for its burial at the Recanto da Paz Municipal Cemetery in the city of Breves, southwest of Marajo Island, an island at the mouth of the Amazon River in the Brazilian state of Para,Brazil. Tarso SARRAF / AFP
In this file photo taken on May 30, 2020 gravediggers wearing protective clothing carry the coffin of a victim of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 for its burial at the Recanto da Paz Municipal Cemetery in the city of Breves, southwest of Marajo Island, an island at the mouth of the Amazon River in the Brazilian state of Para,Brazil. Tarso SARRAF / AFP

 

 

Brazil on Saturday surpassed 100,000 coronavirus deaths and three million cases of infection, crossing the grim milestone after President Jair Bolsonaro said he had a “clear conscience” on his response to the outbreak.

With 100,477 fatalities and 3,012,412 confirmed cases, the South American nation of 212 million people is the second hardest-hit country in the global pandemic, after the United States.

The health ministry reported 905 new deaths in the past 24 hours, as well as 49,970 fresh cases.

 

FIile photo: A researcher works at the special techniques laboratory where a genetic test was developed to diagnose the new coronavirus, COVID-19, at Albert Einstein Israelite Hospital, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on May 28, 2020. NELSON ALMEIDA / AFP

 

But the official figures are most likely an undercount, with experts estimating that the total number of infections could be up to six times higher due to insufficient testing.

Brazil has seen 478 deaths per million people, a figure roughly equivalent to that of the United States (487), but lower than that of Spain (609) or Italy (583).

Senate speaker Davi Alcolumbre announced four days of mourning in Congress to pay tribute to the country’s 100,000-plus virus victims.

The coronavirus outbreak in Brazil is showing no sign of slowing as it enters its sixth month.

The country’s first confirmed COVID-19 case was identified in Sao Paulo on February 26, with the first death on March 12, also in the city.

Brazil marked 50,000 deaths a hundred days later, but then doubled that total in just half the time.

Infections have accelerated in recent weeks in the countryside as well as inland regions and areas where the virus was late arriving, particularly the country’s south and center-west.

In southeastern states such as Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, hardest-hit by the virus in absolute numbers, the situation has stabilized, while the virus’ presence has declined in northern regions after reaching catastrophic levels in April and May.

– ‘Arrogance’ –

At Copacabana beach in Rio, activists from the NGO Rio de Paz released 1,000 red balloons Saturday while standing between 100 black crosses stuck in the sand, in a tribute to Brazilians who have died of coronavirus.

Former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Bolsonaro’s leftist nemesis, on Twitter denounced “the arrogance of a president who has chosen to describe this cruel virus as a little flu, defying science and even death, and who bears in his soul the responsibility for all the lives lost.”

The contagion has cast a harsh light on Brazil’s inequalities, with the virus wreaking particular havoc on the country’s favelas and hitting black populations especially hard.

The country’s indigenous Amazon populations have also been hard hit, with one of Brazil’s leading chiefs, 71-year-old Aritana Yawalapiti, dying Wednesday of respiratory complications caused by COVID-19.

 

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro gestures as he speaks to supporters outside Alvorada Palace in Brasilia, on July 22, 2020. EVARISTO SA / AFP
File photo: Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro gestures as he speaks to supporters outside Alvorada Palace in Brasilia, on July 22, 2020. EVARISTO SA / AFP

Bolsonaro’s government, which has been criticized for managing the epidemic in a chaotic fashion, is on its third health minister since the virus reached the country.

The right-wing leader, who tested positive for the virus last month but has since recovered, said Thursday he had “a clear conscience” and had done “everything possible to save lives.”

Bolsonaro also called the governors of states that took containment measures which he opposed for economic reasons “dictators.”

Brazil resumed its national football championship on Saturday, three months behind schedule.

AFP

Brazil Doctors Volunteer To Test Coronavirus Vaccines

Covid-19- vaccine
In this file photo taken on July 10, 2020 A photo shows vaccines in prefilled, single-use syringes before the inspection and packaging phase at the French pharmaceutical company Sanofi’s world distribution centre in Val de Reuil, France. JOEL SAGET / AFP

 

 

In Brazil, health care workers are on the front line of the coronavirus pandemic in more ways than one, treating patients but also volunteering to test some of the most promising experimental vaccines.

Brazil is the country with the second-highest number of infections and deaths in the pandemic, after the United States, and the virus is still spreading quickly here.

That is bad news in every way but one: it makes the South American country an ideal testing ground for potential vaccines against the virus.

The job of guinea pig falls to medical staff who work in facilities treating patients infected by the virus, because they are the most likely to come into contact with it, enabling researchers to run a controlled experiment to see how well it works.

 

 

A researcher works at the special techniques laboratory where a genetic test was developed to diagnose the new coronavirus, COVID-19, at Albert Einstein Israelite Hospital, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on May 28, 2020. NELSON ALMEIDA / AFP

 

“I want to contribute, and this is my contribution — through science,” said pediatrician Monica Levi, one of 5,000 volunteers in Brazil helping test one of the most promising vaccines so far, developed by Oxford University and pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca.

Levi, 53, works at the Specialized Clinic for Infectious and Parasitic Diseases and Immunizations (Cedipi) in Sao Paulo, the epicenter of the outbreak in Brazil, where more than 2.5 million people have been infected so far, with more than 90,000 deaths.

“Vaccination is my cause. So I have to act on my beliefs,” she told AFP.

Last week, Brazil also became the first country carrying out Phase 3 trials of Chinese vaccine CoronaVac, developed by pharmaceutical firm Sinovac Biotech.

Phase 3 clinical trials involve large-scale testing on humans, the last step before vaccines seek regulatory approval.

Medical workers play the starring role in testing that vaccine, too.

“They pick health care professionals because we are constantly at risk,” Levi said.

Volunteers must be between 18 and 55 years old, work in a patient care role and have no underlying medical conditions.

Half the volunteers in the Oxford trial are receiving the vaccine and the other half a placebo.

But they will only know which a year from now.

Levi got her shot on July 21, and had a headache and chills the first day, she said.

“But I don’t even know if they gave me the vaccine or the placebo,” she added.

While she waits to find out — and to learn whether the vaccine is the exit from the pandemic that the whole world is hoping for — she goes to regular check-ups where researchers monitor her health.

A patient affected by the COVID-19 coronavirus is treated at a field hospital set up at a sports gym, in Santo Andre, Sao Paulo state, Brazil, on May 11, 2020. Miguel SCHINCARIOL / AFP.

 

 

Scientists worldwide are racing to develop and test a vaccine for the virus. There are more than 150 projects so far.

But there are no guarantees in the high-stakes race.

Brazil has a deal to make up to 100 million doses of the Oxford vaccine if it proves effective.

But if it doesn’t, said Levi, “it will all go in the garbage.”

AFP

Brazil First Lady Tests Positive For Coronavirus

brazil-president-wife
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and the first lady Michelle Bolsonaro attend the launch of the Rural Women’s Rights program at Planalto Palace in Brasilia, on July 29, 2020. EVARISTO SA / AFP

 

 

Brazil’s first lady, Michelle Bolsonaro, tested positive for the new coronavirus Thursday, the government said, after her husband spent two weeks in quarantine with it.

The announcement came five days after President Jair Bolsonaro said he was over his illness and resumed his normal work routine.

Michelle Bolsonaro, 38, “is in good health and will follow all established protocols,” the president’s office said.

“The first lady is being treated by the presidential medical team,” it added.

 

File photo: Brazilian Davi da Silva Alves, 39, resident of the Divino Espirito Santo community of the Pacaja River, who suffers from COVID-19 symptoms, is seen on a helicopter-ambulance to be transported from Breves, Para state, Brazil, to the Santa Casa de Misericordia Hospital in Belem, the state’s capital, on June 8, 2020. TARSO SARRAF / AFP.

 

Bolsonaro, 65, has faced criticism for his handling of the pandemic as Brazil has surged to become the country with the second-highest number of infections and deaths in the world, after the United States: more than 2.5 million and 90,000, respectively.

The far-right president, who has compared the virus to a “little flu,” has fought to end state and local stay-at-home measures to contain it, arguing the economic fallout could be worse than the disease itself.

 

File photo: Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro speaks on a mobile phone next to an emu outside the Alvorada Palace in Brasilia, Brazil, on July 13, 2020, in the midst of the new COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.(Photo by Sergio LIMA / AFP)

 

He is instead pushing the drug hydroxychloroquine as a treatment, and took it himself when he was infected, despite numerous studies finding it has no benefit against COVID-19 and can cause serious side effects.

Bolsonaro regularly flouted social distancing guidelines before his diagnosis, hugging and shaking hands with supporters at rallies.

After he came down with a fever and tested positive for the virus on July 7, he spent two weeks in quarantine in the presidential palace, holding meetings remotely.

Michelle Bolsonaro had announced on July 11 that she and her two daughters tested negative for the virus.

Bolsonaro said Saturday he was recovered and had received a negative test result.

On Thursday, in his first public event since his illness, he greeted a crowd of supporters in the northeastern state of Piaui, removing his face mask at several points.

Five of Bolsonaro’s ministers have also tested positive for the virus. The latest came Thursday: Science and Technology Minister Marcos Pontes.

AFP

Peru Says Over 900 Girls, Women Feared Dead Since Pandemic Began

A patient infected with COVID-19 waits for assistance outside the regional Honorio Delgado Hospital, in the Andean city of Arequipa, south of Peru on July 23, 2020. – The government issued an emergency decree allowing the Ministry of Health to intervene to mitigate the crisis situation caused by the increase in COVID-19 infections and victims. Peru exceeded 17,000 deaths from the coronavirus on Wednesday, adding 188 new cases and adding 3,688 deaths between March and June that had not been officially counted by health authorities, the government reported. (Photo by Diego RAMOS / AFP)

 

 

 

A staggering 900-plus girls and women are missing and feared dead in Peru since COVID-19 confinement began, authorities said Monday.

The Andean nation home to 33 million people long has had a horrific domestic violence problem.

But COVID-19, which has compounded home confinement combined with job losses and a health crisis, has seen an already scary situation grow worse in just 3-1/2 months, according to Eliana Revollar, who leads the women’s rights office of the National Ombudsman’s office.

Seventy percent of that figure are minors, she added.

“During the quarantine, from March 16 to June 30, 915 women in Peru were reported missing,” and feared dead, said Revollar.

Before COVID-19, five women were reported missing in Peru every single day; since the lockdown, the number has surged to eight per day.

Revollar said Peru’s situation was grim because the lack of a national missing persons registry made it hard for authorities to keep track of the crisis.

Walter Gutierrez, the ombudsman, told RPS Radio: “We need to know what has happened to them.”

Revollar said she would push for the creation of a missing persons registry.

Women’s rights groups and NGOs however say that very often police refuse to investigate domestic violence, make fun of victims, or claim that the missing have left their homes willingly.

But that doesn’t address the fact that Peru has a problem with domestic violence and other violence against women, as well as human trafficking and forced prostitution.

In January, the case of a university student and activist for women’s rights and safety, Solsiret Rodriguez, was in the headlines here — but only when her body was found three years after she went missing.

Last year there were 166 killings of women in Peru; just a tenth of those were cases of a person first being reported missing. And there were just under 30,000 calls to report domestic violence, according to the Women’s Ministry.

And coronavirus hasn’t spared Peru: it has had more than 384,000 coronavirus cases and 18,229 deaths. It is the third-hardest hit country in Latin America behind Brazil and Mexico.

 

 

 

-AFP

Ex-Chelsea Star Oscar Willing To Play For China

Chelsea Agree To Sell Oscar To Shanghai SIPG
A file photo of former Chelsea player, Oscar.

 

Former Chelsea attacking midfielder Oscar says he would be willing to ditch his Brazilian passport to play for China — if FIFA changed its rules.

Oscar, who moved from the Premier League to Chinese Super League side Shanghai SIPG for a still-Asian-record 60 million euros in January 2017, made the last of his 48 appearances for Brazil in 2015.

Under current rules, the 28-year-old cannot switch to play for another country because he featured for Brazil in official competition, including the 2014 World Cup in his homeland.

Asked by state broadcaster CGTN if he would consider playing for China if the naturalisation rules changed, Oscar replied: “I can think about it because, as I said, it’s difficult to go to the Brazilian national team now because I’m here.

“But in China everyone sees how good I play so if in the end the China national team needs a good midfielder, I think I can help if they change.

“I like China but the players now, if they change the nationality to go to China, they (the team) can do better.”

As a quick fix to boost their Qatar 2022 World Cup hopes, China last year began naturalising a few players who had no family links to the world’s most populous country.

The first was Brazilian-born striker Elkeson, 31, who is now known as Ai Kesen and has played four times for China, scoring three goals. At least two other Brazilians are believed to have been naturalised since.

Oscar has been one of the top players in the Chinese Super League since arriving from Chelsea and topped the assists charts over the past two seasons.

SIPG begin their CSL campaign later Monday against Tianjin Teda at a neutral venue behind closed doors, part of measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus infections.

 

AFP

Brazil’s Bolsonaro Tests Negative For COVID-19

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro (C) walks towards supporters in the garden of the Alvorada Palace in Brasilia, on July 22, 2020. EVARISTO SA / AFP
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro (C) walks towards supporters in the garden of the Alvorada Palace in Brasilia, on July 22, 2020. EVARISTO SA / AFP

 

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro announced on Saturday he has tested negative for the new coronavirus more than two weeks after being diagnosed on July 7, attributing his recovery to an unproven malaria drug.

“RT-PCR for Sars-Cov 2: negative. Good morning everyone,” the 65-year-old tweeted, along with a photo of himself smiling and holding a packet of hydroxychloroquine, whose effectiveness against COVID-19 has not been demonstrated in clinical trials.

He did not say when he took the latest test.

Later, local media reported that he took a motorcycle ride through Brasilia and visited some shops, with small crowds gathering around him.

“I didn’t feel anything, not even in the beginning. If I hadn’t taken the test, I wouldn’t have known I had the virus,” he told them, according to videos played in the media.

The president, who has routinely downplayed the virus he calls a “little flu” but which is currently ravaging his country, spent nearly 20 days self-isolating at his official residence in the capital Brasilia, the Alvorada Palace.

During that time he underwent at least three more virus tests, all positive.

Three polls released this week showed the leader dubbed a “Tropical Trump” would win re-election in 2022, despite his controversial handling of the virus crisis.

The pandemic has exploded in Brazil, the country with the most infections and deaths from COVID-19 anywhere in the world except the United States.

The Latin American powerhouse has registered nearly 2.3 million cases of the new coronavirus and more than 84,000 deaths, and the numbers have continued to rise rapidly.

But Bolsonaro is a fierce critic of stay-at-home measures, arguing the economic pain they result in is worse than the virus itself.

The president has appeared to continue flouting virus precautions even after his diagnosis.

On Thursday he was seen going for a spin on his motorcycle and chatting maskless with a team of groundskeepers outside the presidential palace.

The same day he admitted in a live Facebook video that he was feeling “a bit wretched at being imprisoned here.”

Bolsonaro also continued greeting supporters from quarantine, separated by a narrow reflecting pond but maskless.

And he was spotted in the palace gardens feeding — and occasionally getting bitten by — rheas, a large South American bird related to the emu.

 

AFP

Bolsonaro’s Poll Numbers Rise In Brazil Despite COVID-19 Woes

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro (C) walks towards supporters in the garden of the Alvorada Palace in Brasilia, on July 22, 2020. EVARISTO SA / AFP
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro (C) walks towards supporters in the garden of the Alvorada Palace in Brasilia, on July 22, 2020. EVARISTO SA / AFP

 

Three polls released this week show gains for President Jair Bolsonaro, putting him as favorite to win re-election in 2022 despite his controversial handling of Brazil’s raging coronavirus crisis.

The far-right leader, who is himself currently infected with the virus, has downplayed the pandemic even as it has exploded in Brazil, the country with the most infections and deaths from COVID-19 anywhere in the world except the United States.

But this week’s polls suggest the man dubbed the “Tropical Trump” is weathering the crisis relatively well.

The latest, published Friday by news magazine Veja, puts the far-right leader comfortably ahead in the first round of the presidential election, with 27.5 to 30.7 percent of the vote, depending on his opponents.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro gestures as he speaks to supporters outside Alvorada Palace in Brasilia, on July 22, 2020. EVARISTO SA / AFP
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro gestures as he speaks to supporters outside Alvorada Palace in Brasilia, on July 22, 2020. EVARISTO SA / AFP

 

Bolsonaro would easily win the second round against any opponent, even his popular ex-justice minister turned nemesis, Sergio Moro, or leftist former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, the poll found.

A poll published Thursday by news site Poder360 meanwhile put Bolsonaro’s approval rating at 43 percent, up from 40 percent two weeks ago.

His disapproval rating fell one point, to 46 percent, it found.

Poder360 said the president’s approval rating was 52 percent among beneficiaries of the government’s monthly coronavirus emergency relief checks of 600 reals ($115), which aim to help poor Brazilians suffering the economic impact of coronavirus stay-at-home measures.

Bolsonaro is a fierce critic of those measures, arguing the economic pain is worse than the virus itself.

Brazil has registered nearly 2.3 million cases of the new coronavirus and more than 84,000 deaths, and the numbers continue rising rapidly.

Another poll, published Monday by brokerage firm XP Investimentos, put Bolsonaro’s approval rating at 30 percent, up from 25 percent in May.

It put his disapproval rating at 45 percent, down from 50 percent in May.

 

AFP

Bolsonaro Says He Feels ‘Very Well’, Praises Hydroxycholoroquine

A bottle and pills of Hydroxychloroquine. (AFP)
A bottle and pills of Hydroxychloroquine. (AFP)

 

 

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who has tested positive for COVID-19, said on Facebook Thursday that he was “very well” and again advocated the use of the controversial drug hydroxychloroquine. 

Bolsonaro, 65, appeared in his weekly Facebook Live post at his official residence. He appeared to be in good shape and was not accompanied, as is often the case, by ministers or senior officials, and the usual sign language interpreter was not present.

Since the beginning of the crisis, the far-right president has dismissed the seriousness of the epidemic and criticized containment measures ordered by governors in Brazilian states.

Bolsonaro said that after feeling unwell at the end of last week, he had started taking one hydroxychloroquine tablet every day.

The drug, originally tested to fight malaria, has been pushed as a treatment for COVID-19 in many countries — but its effectiveness has not been formally proven and the issue is deeply dividing the global scientific community.

“I’m saying this very clearly,” Bolsonaro said in his video.

“I took (hydroxychloroquine) and it worked, and I’m fine, thank God. And let those who criticize it at least offer an alternative.”

He did, however, deny making “propaganda for hydroxychloroquine”.

Brazil is currently the second country hardest-hit country in the world by the pandemic, behind the United States.

The death toll on Thursday was 69,184, with an increase of 1,224 in the previous 24 hours.

Brazil To Become Testing Ground For COVID-19 Vaccine

Researchers work at the special techniques laboratory where a genetic test was developed to diagnose the new coronavirus, COVID-19, at Albert Einstein Israelite Hospital, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on May 28, 2020. NELSON ALMEIDA / AFP.

 

Brazil may be struggling in its battle against the coronavirus, but it is on the cutting edge of vaccine development with large-scale trials and the production of millions of doses on the horizon.

Unlike Europe and China, COVID-19 continues to spread rapidly across the Latin American nation — the second-worst hit country in the world after the United States — creating the necessary conditions for testing a vaccine’s efficiency.

Brazil, which is the primary global producer for yellow fever vaccines, is renowned for its expertise in vaccines, which it produces on a large scale in public institutes.

The leaders for two of the most advanced vaccine projects — one from Oxford University, in partnership with AstraZeneca labs, and one from China’s Sinovac — will carry out Phase Three tests, the last one before the drug is approved, on thousands of Brazilian volunteers.

Only three vaccine projects in the world have reached Phase Three.

And Brazil won’t be short-changed either: both projects have technology transfer agreements that will enable the country to produce the vaccines themselves, should the tests prove conclusive.

READ ALSO: Brazil’s President Bolsonaro Tests Positive For COVID-19

With lockdown measures applied unevenly nationwide, Brazil — a country of continental proportions with 212 million inhabitants — has not managed to contain the pandemic, which is rapidly spreading inland.

– 100 million doses –

“Brazil is a good testing ground because the virus is still very present there, and there is a wide variety of epidemiological characteristics” throughout the country, Margareth Dalcomo, a researcher at FIOCRUZ, the research organization that will help produce the Oxford vaccine, told AFP.

“The more volunteers are exposed to the virus, the greater chance to quickly prove the vaccine’s efficiency,” said Sue Ann Costa Clemens, a researcher at the Federal University of Sao Paulo (UNIFESP), which is in charge of carrying out tests for Oxford’s project on 5,000 Brazilian volunteers.

“If we manage to recruit these volunteers while the curve is still rising, we hope to get results quickly, as early as November,” added Clemens, who is also the head of the Institute for Global Health at the University of Sienna, in Italy.

Phase Three tests for the vaccine began in June in Brazil, as well as in the UK and South Africa

“If the tests are conclusive, the vaccine could be registered in the United Kingdom by the end of the year and in other countries, including Brazil, in early 2021,” Clemens added, noting that registration in Brazil should be easier and faster due to on-site testing.

As part of the agreement with Oxford and AstraZeneca, the Brazilian government will invest $127 million to enable FIOCRUZ to acquire the technology and equipment to produce an initial quantity of 30.4 million doses during the experimentation phase.

If the vaccine passes the clinical trials, Brazil will be entitled to produce 70 million additional doses at an estimated cost of $2.30 each.

– Political rivalries –

Meanwhile, the government of Sao Paulo state will start on July 20 testing for the vaccine by the Chinese biopharmaceutical company Sinovac on 9,000 volunteers.

The partnership also provides for technology transfer for “large-scale production” in the event of successful testing.

“This is a technology that we have mastered perfectly, we have already produced other vaccines in a similar way,” said Dimas Covas, the director of the Butantan Institute, which is in charge of producing the doses.

“We will have the autonomy necessary to meet the demand from Brazil, but also other Latin American countries,” he said.

With the two large-scale trials, “Brazil is the repository for the hopes of a large part of the world,” Covas added.

But the announcement three weeks ago of the partnership with Sinovac has drawn criticism, as well as dubious conspiracy theories, against the backdrop of a political rivalry between Sao Paulo Governor Joao Doria and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, a noted coronavirus skeptic.

“A Chinese laboratory making a vaccine against a Chinese virus and research funded by a governor who is a major partner of China. I don’t want this vaccine, do you?” tweeted Roberto Jefferson, a former congressman who recently joined Bolsonaro’s camp.

AFP

Brazil’s President Bolsonaro Tests Positive For COVID-19

(FILES) In this file photo taken on March 18, 2020 Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro gestures using a face cover during a press conference regarding the COVID-19, coronavirus pandemic at the Planalto Palace, Brasilia. – Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro announced on July 7, 2020 he had tested positive for the coronavirus but said he was feeling “perfectly well” and had only mild symptoms. Sergio LIMA / AFP.

 

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro announced on Tuesday he had tested positive for the coronavirus but said he was feeling “perfectly well” and had only mild symptoms.

The far right leader has caused huge controversy in Brazil for repeatedly flouting containment measures and minimizing the risk of the virus, which has killed 65,000 people in the South American giant and infected 1.6 million.

The test “has come out and it’s positive,” Bolsonaro said in a television interview from his residence in capital Brasilia, adding that he was taking hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin to treat the illness.

Hydroxychloroquine is a medication usually used to treat malaria and lupus, while azithromycin is an antibiotic that can be used to treat pneumonia.

Bolsonaro, 65, said he started feeling unwell on Sunday and got worse on Monday, feeling “tiredness, illness and a fever of 38 degrees” Celsius (100.4 Fahrenheit).

But he insisted he was feeling “good, calm” and took off his face mask to emphasize the point.

READ ALSO: Brazil To Become Testing Ground For COVID-19 Vaccine

“Life goes on. We’re going to take care, particularly of old people and those with illnesses that are a risk factor,” he added before repeating his mantra that the “collateral effects” of the virus should not be worse than the illness itself.

On Monday, he announced he had taken a test and told CNN Brazil that he underwent an X-ray of his lungs at a military hospital as a precaution.

Local media said he had cleared his schedule for the week.

Since the beginning of the virus outbreak, Bolsonaro has minimized the risks of what he initially called “a little flu” and flouted social distancing rules and containment measures, such as wearing a mask in public.

Brazil is the second worst-hit country in the world by the pandemic after the United States.

Bolsonaro had been tested three times previously — all came back negative.

On Monday, he watered down for a second time a law that would require citizens to wear face masks in public.

On Saturday, Bolsonaro published photos on social media in which he is not wearing a face mask at a lunch with the US ambassador and several ministers celebrating the July 4th holiday.

AFP