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Amid Turmoil Over Pandemic Response, Brazil's Health Min Resigns After 1 Month On The Job

Dr. Nelson Teich resigned a day after President Bolsonaro stepped up pressure on him to expand use of the antimalarial drug chloroquine in treating patients.


Amid the growing number of Coronavirus infections in Brazil and the continuous political turmoil over how it should battle the pandemic, another health minister exited from his post. Brazil’s health minister Dr. Nelson Teich, who was barely a month into the job, resigned on Friday. The health minister quitted a day after President Jair Bolsonaro stepped up pressure on him to expand the use of the antimalarial drug chloroquine in treating COVID-19 patients.

READ | Brazil: Jair Bolsonaro calls lockdown 'path to failure' despite surging COVID-19 cases

Dr. Nelson Teich, an oncologist and health care consultant who took over as the Health minister on April 17, faced with the task of aligning the ministry’s actions with the president’s view so that Brazil’s economy is not destroyed by restrictions to control the spread of the virus. Teich’s predecessor, Luiz Henrique Mandetta, had also rejected the use of choloquine, which also had been promoted by US President Donald Trump as a mode of treatment.

READ | Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro denies shielding family from inquiries

Gen. Eduardo Pazuello, who had no health experience until he became the Health Ministry’s No. 2 official in April, will be the interim minister until Bolsonaro chooses a replacement. According to the Brazilian media, Teich’s ability to perform his job had been weakened by the appointment of dozens of military personnel to jobs in the ministry.

Teich’s resignation comes a day after Bolsonaro informed his business leaders in a video conference that he would ease rules for use of chloroquine to treat people infected with the Coronavirus. Teich frequently called the use of the drug 'an uncertainty' and this week warned of its side effects. The Health Ministry previously allowed chloroquine to be used in coronavirus cases only for patients hospitalized in serious condition.

READ | Brazil: Bolsonaro allows gym, salon to reopen amid surge in coronavirus cases

Coronavirus crisis in Brazil

Brazil has so far recorded 14,929 deaths due to coronavirus. According to some experts, the figure is significantly higher due to insufficient testing. The experts further said the peak of the crisis has yet to hit Latin America’s largest nation. The country’s Army Chemical and Pharmaceutical Laboratory boosted chloroquine production in late March at Bolsonaro’s continuous urging.

Researchers last month reported no benefit in a large analysis of the drug or a related substance, hydroxychloroquine, in U.S. hospitals for veterans. Last month, scientists in Brazil stopped part of a study of chloroquine after heart rhythm problems developed in one quarter of people given the higher of two doses being tested.

READ | Bolsonaro insists on relaxing lockdown in Brazil

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