SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Brazil's lower house of Congress approved a constitutional amendment for a "war budget" to separate coronavirus-related spending from the government's main budget to shield the economy from the crisis.
The war budget, which was proposed by lower house speaker Rodrigo Maia and other lawmakers, still needs the Senate's approval by three-fifths of the votes in two rounds expected to take place next week.
The lower house approved late on Friday the main text of the bill with 423 votes in favor and 1 opposed in a second round of voting. In the first round, the tally was 505 votes in favor and 2 against.
The bill creates an extraordinary regime to prevent expenses related to the "state of emergency" decree triggered by the pandemic, which is valid until Dec. 31, from being mixed with the federal budget over the same period.
Besides easing fiscal and budgetary constraints to speed up measures tackling the outbreak, the amendment bill also grants the Brazilian central bank emergency bond-buying powers to stabilize financial markets.
Lower house speaker Maia on Friday estimated extraordinary spending from the war budget at between 500 billion and 600 billion reais.
Despite the budget loosening, Brazil is among a number of countries struggling to get medical supplies from China.
Brazil's coronavirus death toll rose to 359, while confirmed cases jumped to 9,056 on Friday, according to Health Ministry figures.
President Jair Bolsonaro, whose handling of the coronavirus outbreak has drawn growing criticism, on Saturday asked Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for support in supplying pharmaceutical inputs.
"Had a productive telephone conversation with President Jair Bolsonaro about how India and Brazil can join forces against the COVID-19 pandemic," Modi wrote on his Twitter account.
(Reporting by Gabriela Mello; Editing by David Clarke and Alistair Bell)