Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro on Thursday sacked Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta, as infighting within the government over the handling of the coronavirus crisis continued, CNN reported. He will be replaced by Nelson Teich, an oncologist who supported Bolsonaro’s presidential campaign.
“I just heard from President Jair Bolsonaro the notification of my discharge as Health Minister,” Mandetta tweeted on Thursday. He thanked his colleagues and wished good luck to Teich.
Mandetta was a strong supporter of social distancing to combat the Covid-19 crisis, a position that put him at odds with Bolsonaro. Mandetta had supported local governments’ decisions to shut down schools and businesses, but the president had described Covid-19 as a “little flu” and said that the economic impact of a lockdown would be far greater than that of the pandemic.
Mandetta also disputed Bolsonaro’s claim that anti-malarial drugs would help fight Covid-19, with the health minister asserting that there was no evidence for this claim. Scientists world over have said that there is no conclusive evidence yet of such drugs being effective in treating coronavirus.
During a press conference following Mandetta’s departure, Bolsonaro called it a “consensual divorce” and part of a “transition”. He praised Mandetta’s work but added that health concerns and the economy should be treated as “two separate problems”.
New Health Minister Teich said that Brazil will not take any hasty decisions, and that health and jobs were “complementary priorities”. “The part about social isolation, there won’t be any sudden definitions,” Teich said. “What is fundamental is that people have more and more information about each action. We will make decisions based on solid information.”
Brazil has so far reported 30,683 cases of the coronavirus, and 1,947 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.