Bolsonaro digs in on chloroquine as panacea in coronavirus fight

Sao Paulo, May 20 (efe-epa).- The government of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is holding ever more tightly to the idea of the drug chloroquine as a panacea amid the coronavirus pandemic and recommended on Wednesday that it be used to treat patients with mild symptoms of Covid-19, which has already killed about 18,000 people in Brazil, where the daily death toll has surpassed 1,000.

Following the tack taken by Bolsonaro, the Health Ministry on Wednesday published a new protocol on treating coronavirus patients that includes the potential use of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine when the symptoms are mild, despite the fact that the efficacy of these two anti-malarial drugs has not been proven in the fight against the virus.

“It’s a hopeful sign, as related by many who have used it,” said Bolsonaro on Wednesday, a day after his US counterpart, Donald Trump, announced that he will continue taking hydroxychloroquine because he is “curious” about its effects.

The new protocol published in Brazil comes a day after major medical associtions refused to advise the use of chloroquine and its derivatives, saying that the evidence about its efficacy in treating Covid-19 is “weak” and that, in addition, its use can result in severe side effects, including possibly fatal cardiac arrhythmias.

Despite the recommendations of medical experts, Bolsonaro said Wednesday that the “war” being fought against the coronavirus in Brazil, the country with the third largest number of cases, justifies his administration’s decision to authorize use of the drug.

“There still exists no scientific proof, but it’s being experimented with and used in Brazil and all over the world. In any case: we’re in a war … (and) even worse than being defeated is the shame of not having fought at all,” the ultrarightist reserve army captain said in a public post on his Twitter account.

Bolsonaro’s obsession with the medication has led to the downfall of two Brazilian health ministers in less than a month. First, Luiz Henrique Mandetta was fired after several harsh confrontations with the president and then his successor, Nelson Teich, presented his resignation 28 days after taking over the post.

Teich was replaced on an interim basis by Gen. Eduardo Pazuello, a professional soldier with a solid resume but without any experience in the health sector and who on Wednesday signed the new protocol regarding the use of chloroquine, which has been used for decades to treat malaria.

Despite the fact that Pazuello’s appointment is only temporary, so far, Bolsonaro acknowledged that he could “remain for a long time” in the post amid the rapid spread of the coronavirus in Brazil, where testing has revealed that there are more than 271,000 official cases, but – due the relative lack of that testing among Brazil’s population of some 210 million – where the true undetected caseload could be much higher, according to experts.

Apart from promoting the use of chloroquine, the Brazilian government continues to lack a clearly enunciated strategy to combat the coronavirus, the peak of which in Brazil is expected in July.

Bolsonaro, meanwhile, continues to downplay the seriousness of the disease and is exerting pressure to reopen the country and resume economic activities of all sorts, this at a time when the country may be en route to surpassing the US as the world epicenter of the pandemic.

The Brazilian states, which have the autonomy to decide on measures such as social distancing, have adopted an amalgam of approaches to deal with the crisis, but so far these have been insufficient to halt the spread of the virus in the South American giant.

Brazil’s poor management of the coronavirus crisis and the spread of the disease have activated alarms in other countries around the region and also in the US, the country to which Bolsonaro has tried to move closer since he came into office on Jan. 1, 2019.

Trump said on Tuesday that he is considering the idea of banning foreigners coming from Brazil from entering the US, an idea that he had already broached in late March before the increase in virus cases in the South American country.

The US leader said that his administration is considering the idea although he hoped it would not be necessary, saying that Brazil had chosen to go the “herd immunity” route, but they are having problems dealing with the spread of the disease.


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