Brazil’s President Bolsonaro rapped for stirring doubt on COVID-19 vaccine

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Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro gestures during a ceremony at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil on September 2, 2020. (REUTERS/Adriano Machado)
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Workers disinfect an area of the Museum of Tomorrow prior to its reopening in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on Sept. 4, 2020, amid the COVID-19 novel coronavirus pandemic. (AFP / MAURO PIMENTEL)
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Workers disinfect an area of the Museum of Tomorrow prior to its reopening in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on Sept. 4, 2020, amid the COVID-19 novel coronavirus pandemic. (AFP / MAURO PIMENTEL)
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Updated 05 September 2020

Brazil’s President Bolsonaro rapped for stirring doubt on COVID-19 vaccine

  • Bolsonaro has set himself from the onset against lockdowns and other broad restrictions on activity imposed by governors at the recommendation of health experts

SAO PAULO: Critics of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro are again speaking out against the leader’s stance on the coronavirus pandemic, this time rejecting his view that vaccination for the virus shouldn’t be mandatory.
Bolsonaro’s first such comments came Monday, when he told a supporter, “No one can force anyone to get a vaccine.” He repeated it Thursday night during a live broadcast on Facebook, adding his opposition to administering vaccines that are yet to be proven on Brazilian soil.
“It has been proven in other countries, but not here in Brazil,” he said, without specifying to which potential vaccine he was referring. “We cannot be irresponsible and put a vaccine into people’s bodies. As I said, nobody can oblige someone to take a vacccine.”
The comments were swiftly rebuked by opponents on social media.
Sao Paulo state Gov. João Doria, a former Bolsonaro ally turned foe, said in an interview with The Associated Press on Friday that immunization cannot be viewed as a personal decision. Sao Paulo, with 46 million residents, is the pandemic’s epicenter in Brazil, with its more than 30,000 dead from COVID-19 accounting for about a fourth of the country’s death toll from the illness.
“It is sad that once again Brazil’s president is setting a denialist example,” Doria said in a video call. “It should be obligatory, except in special cases or under health circumstances that justify not taking a vaccine. An infected person infects others, and makes possible the death of others.”
Brazil’s Workers’ Party, an adversary of both Bolsonaro and Doria, said in a statement that the president’s efforts to create an air of doubt about a future vaccine “ignores the importance of the shots to protect the health of the entire population.”
The national health council, which is a branch of Bolsonaro’s own health ministry, said in a statement that the government should not be talking about vaccination against COVID-19 not being mandatory.
“The right to individual liberty is not absolute to the point of being above the collective well-being,” the council said.
Since the onset of the crisis, Bolsonaro has set himself against lockdowns and other broad restrictions on activity imposed by governors at the recommendation of health experts. The president called COVID-19 “a little flu,” and warned that shutting down the economy would inflict a greater hardship on the millions who live hand to mouth.
Brazil’s health ministry to date has confirmed more than 4 million cases of the disease and 125,000 deaths. Both numbers trail only the United States, according to the tally kept by Johns Hopkins University.
Because Brazil’s caseload is so high, and it has a large, dispersed population of 210 million people, several vaccine developers selected the nation to conduct human trials of their products.
Bolsonaro’s federal government struck an initial deal with AstraZeneca for 30 million doses of its vaccine, which could later rise to 100 million in total.
Sao Paulo’s state government, meanwhile, forged an agreement with Chinese vaccine developer Sinovac for 60 million shots, if it is proven effective. But Bolsonaro supporters frequently call COVID-19 a “Chinese virus” and reject working with companies from China.
Doria said Bolsonaro’s move to stir skepticism about foreign-made vaccines is a mistake.
“With one vaccine we cannot immunize the entire Brazilian population. We need two, three, maybe four, produced in large scale,” the governor said. “As long as it is proven to be efficient, it doesn’t matter if it is Chinese, Russian, French, American or British. What matters is that it saves lives.”
A recent poll by Ipsos Institute in 27 countries published Wednesday found 88% of Brazilians surveyed said they would get immunized against COVID-19 if a vaccine was available.
Brazil’s health ministry expects the distribution of vaccines can start in the first months of 2021.
Max Igor Lopes, an infectious disease specialist at Sao Paulo’s Hospital das Clinicas, believes controversy about mandatory vaccination isn’t helpful.
“What is important is that people take the vaccine because they understand that it brings a benefit to them,” he said. “And this is the vaccine’s purpose.”


Italy’s Lombardy region to impose virus curfew

Updated 37 sec ago

Italy’s Lombardy region to impose virus curfew

  • The curfew from 11pm to 5am is expected to begin on Thursday night and last to November 13
  • More than 10,000 new Covid-19 infections were recorded in Italy on Friday for the time ever
ROME: Italy’s northern Lombardy region prepared Tuesday to impose a nighttime curfew, the most restrictive anti-coronavirus measure the country has seen since emerging from a national lockdown in the spring.
The curfew from 11pm (2100GMT) to 5am is expected to begin on Thursday night and last to November 13.
Health Minister Roberto Speranza gave his consent late Monday to the more restrictive measure proposed by the regional government, after an hours-long meeting.
“It’s an appropriate and symbolically important initiative that shouldn’t have particularly serious economic consequences,” Regional President Attilio Fontana said in the newspaper La Repubblica on Tuesday.
More than 10,000 new Covid-19 infections were recorded in Italy on Friday for the time ever, with Lombardy the hardest hit region, as it was in the beginning of the health crisis in February.
The region, which includes Italy’s financial hub of Milan, reported 1,687 new cases on Monday, with Italy’s southern Campania region coming a close second with 1,593.
Since Italy became the first hard-hit European country earlier this year, more than 36,000 people have died of Covid-19 in the country.
On Saturday, Lombardy ordered its bars to shut at midnight and prohibited the consumption of food and drink in public outside areas.
Italy has put in place recent restrictions to try to stem the new wave of infections, but none have so far imposed a curfew.
They include banning amateur contact sports, such as football matches, school trips, and restricting bars and restaurants to table service after 6pm.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has said he does not envision another country-wide lockdown, which would further sap Italy’s struggling economy, but has said that he would not rule out limited ones.
Lombardy’s curfew is expected to only allow people to leave their home for reasons of health, work or necessity.
The new decree will also call for large shopping centers to be shut on weekends, according to Italian media reports.