A senior delegation of Brazilian government officials arrived in Israel Sunday for a series of meetings with Israeli counterparts about efforts to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, including an Israeli-developed nasal spray against COVID-19 that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has described as a “miracle” treatment.
The delegation, which will include Foreign Minister Ernesto Araujo and chair of the Congress’ Foreign Affairs Committee Eduardo Bolsonaro — the son of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro — will be allowed into the country without having to undergo a quarantine, despite a ban on foreign citizens entering Israel and the threat of a Brazilian COVID-19 variant.
The Ynet news site reported that the delegation would be confined to their hotel for the entire visit except for their meetings with Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, which will take place at the Prime Minister’s Office and Foreign Ministry, respectively.
The Foreign Ministry, confirming the meetings, said the visit would be taking place “according to Health Ministry guidelines.”
It said that the delegation will meet with Netanyahu and Health Ministry officials “in order to examine ways of cooperating on the coronavirus issue.”
Representatives from Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital, which is behind the EXO-CD24 nasal spray, will reportedly meet with members of the delegation in their hotel after a request was denied for a visit at the hospital.
Jair Bolsonaro said last month that his government would seek emergency use authorization for the Israeli-developed nasal spray.
“EXO-CD24 is a nasal spray developed by the Ichilov Medical Center in Israel, with nearly 100 percent effectiveness — 29 out of 30 — against COVID in serious cases,” Bolsonaro tweeted, two days after speaking on the phone with Netanyahu.
“A request to analyze this medication for emergency use will be sent shortly to (federal health regulator) Anvisa,” Bolsonaro wrote.
Ichilov Hospital announced in early February that one of its researchers had carried out Phase 1 testing — typically the first of three phases of clinical trials — on a nasal spray he developed against respiratory symptoms linked to COVID-19.
The researcher, Nadir Arber, reported that he had administered the spray to 30 patients with moderate to severe cases of COVID-19, and that 29 of them had been released from hospital in three to five days.
But the hospital did not say whether a placebo had been given to a control group, and has yet to publish its findings in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. In order to be accepted as effective by scientists, new treatments must generally undergo randomized, controlled, blind clinical trials that are then shared in a research publication.
However, that did not stop Netanyahu from hailing EXO-CD24 as a “miracle” drug.
A fierce critic of lockdown measures, Bolsonaro has instead fervently pushed the anti-malaria drugs chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine to fight COVID-19.
Bolsonaro has sought to cultivate close ties with Netanyahu.
In one of his first moves after winning election in 2018, he vowed to follow the lead of his political role model, then US president Donald Trump, and move Brazil’s embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The South American country opened a trade office in the Israeli capital in 2019, in a move hailed as a harbinger to opening an embassy in the city.
AFP contributed to this report.