BRAZIL (Reuters) – Brazilian Health Minister Nelson Teich resigned on Friday after only a few weeks at work, adding to the chaos in handling the acceleration of the spread of the coronavirus outbreak at one of the worst hotspots in the world by President Jair Bolsonaro.
Brazilian Health Minister Nelson Teich attends a press conference, amid an epidemic of coronavirus (COVID-19) in Brasilia, Brazil 15 May 2020. REUTERS / Adriano Machado
Teich, who was criticized by Bolsonaro for being too scared in pushing to reopen the economy and advocating the use of anti-malaria drugs to fight the virus, submitted his resignation and will hold a press conference on Friday, the ministry said.
The disappearance of his second health minister in less than a month sparked criticism of the right-wing president of politicians and called for his impeachment. In Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, where the disease has boosted the capacity of public hospitals, Brazilians banged pots and pans from their windows in protest
Members of the military cabinet of Brazil urged deputy health minister Eduardo Pazuello, an army general on active duty, to become the new health minister, making him a temporary role, a government source told Reuters.
Teich struggled to reach consensus with state governments regarding guidelines for reopening their economies, as Bolsonaro demanded. He expressed his surprise at a recent press conference when he learned about a presidential decree that allowed fitness centers, beauty salons and hairdressers to be open for business.
The final straw for Teich might be Bolsonaro’s insistence on the use of more extensive hydroxychlorochin as a treatment for new coronaviruses, which the minister opposed because of a lack of scientific evidence.
The US Food and Drug Administration warned last month against the use of malaria drugs, which President Donald Trump described as “game changers.” Medical researchers have found that the drug, which was first approved in 1955, did not provide potentially higher benefits and risk of death for COVID-19 patients.
Teich resigned a day after Brazil reported a record number of new corona virus cases. He has replaced Nelson Mandetta, who was fired on April 16 for resisting Bolsonaro’s pressure to promote hydroxychloroquine and against government orders to keep his distance.
This week Brazil passed through Germany and France in coronavirus cases, with more than 200,000 diagnoses confirmed on Thursday, when the health ministry reported 844 new deaths, bringing the death toll to 13,933.
Allied opposition and politicians criticized Bolsonaro’s obstinacy. MP Marcelo Ramos of the centrist Liberal Party said that the president would only accept a minister without regard to science-based public health policies.
Congress opposition leader Alessandro Molon warned that Brazil was heading for a public health disaster and said the president must be impeached.
“Bolsonaro does not want a technical minister, he wants someone who agrees with his ideological madness, such as ending social distance and using chloroquine,” Molon, an MP from the Brazilian Socialist Party, said in a statement.
The handling of the corona virus by Bolsonaro has been widely criticized globally because he has minimized the severity of the disease and told Brazilians to ignore quarantine restrictions.
“Let’s pray,” former Mandetta minister said on Twitter after Teich’s resignation, calling for confidence in science and support for the Brazilian public health system.
Reporting by Lisandra Paraguassu; Writing by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Brad Haynes, Franklin Paul, Dan Grebler and Marguerita Choy
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