26 September 2023

BRAZIL: Health Minister sacked over COVID

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Brazilian President, Jair Bolsonaro has sacked his Minister for Health, Luiz Henrique Mandetta (pictured) over disagreements on the country’s strategy for dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak.

Ms Mandetta has been replaced by Nelson Teich, an oncologist who supported the President’s campaign for office.

The Minister was one of Brazil’s biggest proponents of social distancing, supporting Governors’ decisions to shut down schools and businesses.

This put him at odds with Mr Bolsonaro, who claims COVID-19 is nothing more than a “little flu”, saying the economic fallout from isolation could be worse than the virus itself.

Mr Mandetta also challenged the President’s insistence that malaria drugs were the solution to the crisis, saying there was no evidence they are effective in treating the symptoms.

Mr Bolsonaro called the departure a “consensual divorce” and part of a “transition.” He praised Mr Mandetta, but insisted the “illness” to the economy could not be ignored

National and Local Governments have issued mixed messaging on how to behave during the pandemic.

While Mr Bolsonaro has been pushing against strict restrictions, State and Local Governments in some of the country’s hardest-hit areas have promoted social distancing, with firefighters and police in the streets urging people to stay indoors.

Mr Bolsonaro has been seen flouting the guidelines issued by his own health experts, wandering into bakeries and greeting supporters with handshakes and hugs.

Mr Teich appeared to at least partially support this position, saying that jobs and health were complementary priorities.

“The part about social isolation, there won’t be any sudden definitions. What is fundamental is that people have more and more information about each action. We will make decisions based on solid information,” Mr Teich said.

Brazil has reported more than 30,000 confirmed cases of Coronavirus infection. More than 1,900 people have died.

Brasilia, 17 April, 2020

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