Brazil turns to China for help in the fight against coronaviruses, plans US cooperation

BRASILIA / SAO PAULO (Reuters) – Brazil faces a tense period in the coming weeks in its battle against the coronavirus, with supplies of medical and protective equipment under delivery and fresh deliveries from China which should not arrive in the country for a month.

A worker disinfects a bus stop during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Curitiba, Brazil, April 2, 2020. REUTERS / Rodolfo Buhrer

Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta said states are well supplied at the moment, but Brazil must turn to several countries before it can find a taker for its 1.2 billion reais ($ 228 million) ) in order to restock.

“The first country said no, the second country said no and we were worried. At the end of the afternoon yesterday, the fifth country agreed and will deliver in 30 days. This is a very big purchase, enough for more than 60 days, "he said.

This country is China, the health ministry told Reuters, adding that the order covered 200 million items.

Mandetta also said on Thursday that he had met the new U.S. ambassador to Brazil to discuss cooperation in the fight against the pandemic, which could see Brazilian companies producing face masks for use in both countries.

Brazil's contact with the two global economic superpowers comes as President Jair Bolsonaro again urged states to relax their strict quarantine policies and said people should start going back to work next week.

Bolsonaro and Mandetta clashed over their approach to the crisis, with the president criticizing Mandetta's advice to maintain maximum isolation and social distancing due to its impact on employment and employment ;economy.

Speaking to Radio Jovem Pan, the president said that Mandetta sometimes "went overboard" and lacked "humility."

"I do not intend to fire him during the war," said Bolsonaro, referring to the current crisis.

Addressing the ministers of the Church in Brasilia earlier, he once again downplayed the epidemic, saying that "it is not all that is claimed".

The Department of Health said on Thursday that the federal stock of about 40 million personal protective equipment for health professionals, such as masks and gloves, had been fully donated to local authorities.

China, where the coronavirus appeared at the end of last year, has used its medical equipment production and expertise to stop the coronavirus as a soft power tool in regions like South America, where it is fighting to exert influence against the United States.

The death toll in Brazil has increased sharply.

Figures from the Ministry of Health showed that the number of deaths jumped 23% from Wednesday to 299 and the number of confirmed cases increased by 15% to 7,910.

The Brazilian congress could vote Friday on a constitutional amendment to the so-called "war budget" to help minimize economic damage, lower house president Rodrigo Maia said earlier.

Economy ministry officials said the government’s deficit would reach a record high this year at rea 419 billion, or 5.5 percent of GDP.

Report by Maria Carolina Marcello, Lisandra Paraguassu and Eduardo Simoes; Written by Ana Mano and Gabriela Mello and Jamie McGeever; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Rosalba O & # 39; Brien

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