April 16, 20 - 4:24 pm - LABS

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro changes health minister amid the COVID-19 pandemic

After weeks of disagreements, Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro dismissed the Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta this Thursday, amid the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the newspaper O Estado de S.Paulo and Reuters, the oncologist, Nelson Teich will take office.

In his Twitter profile, Mandetta thanked the opportunity “to be the manager of SUS (the Brazilian public health system)” and the chance of planning the country’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, which, according to him, is “the great challenge that our health system is facing”.

Since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, Mandetta and Bolsonaro had been at odds over the best strategy to fight the disease. While Bolsonaro is in favor of easing the social isolation measures to mitigate the effects on the country’s economy, the now-former minister insists on maintaining its position for social distance as a way to avoid a collapse in the health system, a recommendation also defended by health experts and the World Health Organization (WHO).

The two also disagreed about the use of chloroquine in patients infected but the novel coronavirus. Like U.S. President Donald Trump, Bolsonaro is an enthusiast of the drug indicated to treat malaria, lupus and other diseases, but which has shown promising results against the coronavirus. Mandetta, however, like many scientists, has always asked for caution when prescribing the drug, since there is still no conclusive research to prove its effectiveness against the new coronavirus.

The new Minister of Health, Nelson Teich, according to political analysts, is also in favor of social isolation and mass testing of the population. It is not yet clear what are the points, then, of convergence between him and Bolsonaro.