Coronavirus from Brazil: Bolsonaro dismisses Minister of Health Mandetta and appoints Nelson Teich

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“I have just heard from President Jair Bolsonaro the notification of my resignation as Minister of Health,” outgoing Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta tweeted on Thursday, thanking his colleagues and wishing his replacement all the best.

Bolsonaro has announced that he will replace Mandetta with Nelson Teich, an oncologist who supported his presidential campaign.

Mandetta was one of Brazil’s biggest supporters of social distancing, supporting governors ’decisions to close schools and businesses.

But his approach put him at odds with Bolsonaro, who had previously downplayed Covid-19 as nothing more than a “little flu” and warned that the economic fallout from isolation may be worse than the virus itself .

Mandetta also challenged the president’s insistence that antimalarial drugs are the solution to the Covid-19 crisis. While Brazil has launched trials involving the drugs, Mandetta warned that there was no evidence that they are effective in treating symptoms.

Luiz Henrique Mandetta pictured here during a press conference on April 3, 2020.

National and local governments in Brazil have published mixed messages on how to behave during the pandemic. As Bolsonaro lobbied against strict restrictions, state and local governments in some of the hardest hit regions of the country have encouraged social distancing, with firefighters and police on the streets urging people to stay inside.

In Rio de Janeiro, Governor Wilson Witzel extended quarantine measures in most major cities in the state until the end of April and urged people to stay at home.

Two governors and more than ten members of the Bolsonaro inner circle have tested positive for coronavirus. But Bolsonaro has been seen flouting directives from his own health experts, wandering bakeries, and greeting supporters with handshakes and hugs.

Resident of the Brazilian favela who saw a coronavirus coming

The decision to withdraw Mandetta comes as the coronavirus continues to spread across the vast country of Latin America: beds in intensive care units are filling up in the largest cities in Brazil and in northern Amazon, authorities warn that the health system is already collapsing.

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

At the same time, fears are growing that the virus could ravage indigenous communities in Brazil. A 15-year-old Yanomami boy from Rehebe village in northern Brazil died on Friday of complications from Covid-19, according to the Ministry of Health. The Association of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB) said the boy was the third indigenous to die from the disease in Brazil.

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