Photographer: Jonne Roriz/Bloomberg

Brazil now counts over 12 million cases of coronavirus, and the country’s top banking and hedge fund executives, former central bank governors and key businessmen are urging political leaders to do more to fight the pandemic.

Figures including billionaire brothers Pedro and Joao Moreira Salles, co-owners of Itau Unibanco Holding, and Credit Suisse Group AG’s chief in Brazil Jose Olympio Pereira called the country “the global epicenter of Covid-19” in an open letter. The outlook, the group said, is becoming more alarming as health-care systems collapse amid a “desolate” economic and social situation.

Key Speakers At The 2018 Latin America Investment Conference

Photographer: Patricia Monteiro/Bloomberg

“We’re on the edge of an explosive phase of the pandemic and it’s key that from now on, public policies be grounded in data, reliable information and scientific evidence,” said the letter. The recession “won’t be overcome until the pandemic is controlled by competent action from the federal government.”

The letter was signed by over 500 people, according to Thomas Conti, a professor at business school Insper, who said he helped craft the letter. The list also includes the nation’s most-renowned hedge fund manager, Luis Stuhlberger, Pedro Passos, co-founder of $13 billion beauty giant Natura&Co, Horacio Lafer Piva, a key shareholder of pulp and paper producer Klabin SA, Fersen Lambranho, chairman of private-equity firm GP Investments and Roberto Setubal, whose family controls Itau alongside the Moreira Salles. Former former central bank chiefs Ilan Goldfajn and Arminio Fraga have also signed.

The group defended speeding up vaccinations, the implementation of social-distancing measures, incentives for mask usage and the creation of a national mechanism to combat the coronavirus. Newspaper Folha de S.Paulo first released the letter contents’ on Sunday.

Brazil has registered more daily Covid-19 cases and deaths than ever as the country struggles with a more contagious variant and sees hospitals overrun. The Latin American nation trails only the U.S. in both counts, and registered 49,293 new Covid-19 infections over the last 24 hours, pushing the total toll to 12,047,526. Reported fatalities increased by 1,383 on Monday to 295,425, poised to surpass 300,000 this week.

The vaccination campaign, which was late to start and kicked off with only a few doses at hand, has deployed about 15.6 million shots so far, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That means 5.4% of Brazilians have received a first shot, and 1.9% have been fully inoculated.

The resurgence of the virus, which is leaving hospitals out of everything from oxygen to medicines needed to intubate patients, is adding pressure on the government to act. In a recent letter to clients, Verde’s Stuhlberger said the government “failed miserably” in acquiring vaccines.

“It’s unbelievably cheaper to buy vaccines than to boost fiscal spending, which comes with indebtedness, more inflation, higher rates, etc,” said the fund.

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Businessmen have also expressed their worry. In a conference call with analysts and investors earlier this month, the head of retailer Magazine Luiza SA, Frederico Trajano, said the country seemed to be “back to square one” from a pandemic standpoint.

Covid-19 deaths per million inhabitants in previous seven days

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