Great to see you all, good morning, good evening, good afternoon.
First of all, I would like to stress our opinion that this group is extremely useful. I think we developed an atmosphere of free exchange of ideas and information. This shows that every geometry today can contribute to the fight against the COVID and its consequences because what we need is to understand what is going on. We are still far from understanding how to come back to normal. Different countries have different approaches and it is clear that what we need is this flow – or exchange – of information and initiatives; and that we cannot take global one-size-fits-all solutions for the challenge we are facing. So, thank you very much for convening this group again.
I have a few general comments and then I will talk about what we are doing in Brazil. As some of you know, we have a let us say, critical approach towards the multilateral response to the COVID so far. We are extremely respectful and admire the work of the WHO and other agencies—especially the WHO—but we think that it has been falling short of the expectations, especially as with regards to the message that they send: the different approaches, the different kinds of recommendations that they have been having at different given moments have created confusion, sometimes disinformation—at least that was the case in Brazil. We are in the middle of the crisis, but we need to start the process of evaluating why that is happening. We know that they are doing their best but there is a problem there. There is a problem when sometimes it is said, “well every country should lockdown,” and other times they say, “well, we have to think about the economy at the same time.” And whatever emanates from the WHO, at least here, people listen with the utmost attention. Then, this enters our political discussion domestically and it has an enormous impact. So, that is something that we think we should address. It is also the reason why this sort of group is so valuable: because we can exchange perceptions regarding that sort of issue.
Second, it is clear that national responses and international multilateral responses have to complement each other. We cannot expect everything from multilateral solutions. Not at all. In Brazil, we think—and I have tried to stress that—that we are trying to contribute in different ways. And I think we have contributed in different ways to addressing the challenges of the pandemic. One of them has been to keep and even to increase our agricultural production and to keep exporting our agriculture and food products, which have helped to maintain a reasonable level of food security around the world. If Brazil had applied the lock-down approach to our agriculture sector, the food security situation today around the world would be much worse. Brazil exports food to feed almost 1 billion people around the world. So, that is something that we have to take into account. It is not because it is Brazil. It is because that is something that does not come from any sort of multilateral response, it is something that we are doing here. But of course, every country is doing similar things.
We have been following with great care, over the last few days, news and studies that start to suggest that lockdown measures were not as effective as it was expected. Of course, if this is a conclusion now, most of the evil is done. The amount of economic destruction that lockdowns have caused is already there, we have to deal with that, but I think it is very important to go much more in-depth in scientific studies about how lockdowns work or do not work, because in many countries we have the threat of new waves, and maybe also for new situations like this in the future this automatic response that, “okay, let us lock the country down and let us deal with the economy later,” this is clearly creating a nightmare and it is not solving the health issues apparently, according to some studies. So, my point is: we have to avoid the politicization of those key issues which, unfortunately, has been happening in many cases, in Brazil for sure.
We already have the problem of the politically correct ideology that has done so much harm around the world. And now in some corners, some sort of “sanitarily correct” ideology is emerging, where you cannot discuss the value of lockdowns, you cannot discuss how to go back to a normal economy, otherwise, you are called a genocide or something like that. Regarding treatment: this has been the case in Brazil as well with hydroxychloroquine. It seems to work. I mean, doctors are using it, they are curing people whenever it is used as an early treatment, but, I do not know in your countries, but in Brazil, this has been captured at first by a political agenda. And so, if you are in favor of the government, you are in favor of hydroxychloroquine, and if you do not like the government for political reasons, you are against hydroxychloroquine. No matter if it works or not. This is not the way to go, obviously. So, that is an appeal for everyone to share, for any discussion regarding the pandemic to be conducted on a rational basis, on top of scientific data, and in a transparent manner—be it bilaterally, multilaterally, or whatever.
I would like to provide a few data about Brazil and our response. We have had bad press around the world regarding our response to the health dimension of the pandemic. Just to mention that the effort was huge: the federal government transferred more than 15 billion dollars to state and municipal governments to fight the pandemic. We are processing up to 45,000 tests per day. The federal government has distributed more than 250 million personal protective equipment, more than one per person, distributed more than 13 million diagnostic tests, has certified more than 12,000 dedicated intensive care units, and 10,000 ventilators around the country.
Brazil participates in a number of international initiatives to promote the development of tools and supplies to fight the COVID, including vaccines, such as the “ACT Accelerator” and the Solidarity Call to Action. We have an understanding with the University of Oxford for the acquisition of vaccines, but we are working with several fronts, trying to cooperate in the development of vaccines. We believe that we can have 13 million doses by January and have a productive capacity installed to produce 40 million doses per month by mid-2021, and a part of that, we are sure, we can share with countries with whom we cooperate. So, we hope that we can cover the national needs and also share and cooperate with other countries. Some domestic vaccine projects are also underway.
Regarding domestic support for vulnerable people, we have approximately 67 million Brazilians who are receiving emergency benefits. This is allowing people basically to stay alive because many people work in the informal sector or lost their jobs and would have no other source of revenue. One important issue is that women are treated with double the amount, I mean, women who are heads of families receive double the amount of the emergency revenue. So, all the set of policies to address either the health or economic consequences of the pandemic amount to 15% of our GDP. This is far more than the average of G20 countries and some huge effort that needs a lot of, also, let us say, legislative work. We are working on that every day because this has to be done inside all the constitutional requirements for public spending.
And a final point regarding indigenous populations—which is sometimes addressed in the media incorrectly, —of course, we look with the utmost attention to indigenous communities and all the measures necessary to protect them as much as possible are being taken. Indigenous populations in Brazil are different, some are much more isolated, others are more integrated to the general population. So, it is very difficult to work, especially with those last ones: how to isolate those populations, which sometimes is more difficult. But, in any case, since March every kind of effort has been undertaken to monitor and limit access to indigenous communities in order not to spread the virus. We think this is being successful. This is basically to give an overall idea of what is going on.
One final, last point: air travel is already open for any country in Brazil and we are beginning to open land crossing with most of our neighbors. We are ready to work with all of them. Peru is here, we have already had discussions with Peru, but not with all other neighbors. With Uruguay and Bolivia, we already have open borders with some requirements, and we think that this is the way to go. We have also to normalize life for people who live in border areas.