SAO PAULO, March 12 (Reuters) - Brazil’s government may issue an executive decree to free 5 billion reais ($1.04 billion) to help the Health Ministry combat the spread of the novel coronavirus, Senate president David Alcolumbre said late on Wednesday.
Alcolumbre discussed the issue with Economy Minister Paulo Guedes, Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta, lower house speaker Rodrigo Maia and central bank president Roberto Campos Neto on Wednesday, according to the Senate agency.
Mandetta had already sent a request for funds to Congress on Wednesday and legislative advisors favored issuing a decree to immediately free up resources that will not be tied to a federal spending cap, the agency added.
“Parliament knows the size of its responsibility at this moment. These resources will be voted on and authorized if it is through (a decree),” Alcolumbre said.
He and Maia are likely to meet with President Jair Bolsonaro later on Thursday to determine the best way to release the funds.
Brazil’s Health Ministry has so far reported 69 confirmed cases of the virus, and no fatalities.
“Companies are in debt, recession is threatening, and coronavirus has only accelerated this process,” Guedes said at the meeting, according to Agência Câmara de Notícias.
Earlier on Wednesday, Brazil’s government lowered its 2020 gross domestic product growth forecast to 2.1% from 2.4%, citing the economic fallout from the global coronavirus outbreak.
$1 = 4.8148 reais Reporting by Pedro Fonseca in Rio de Janeiro; Writing by Gabriela Mello; Editing by Bernadette Baum