Bolsonaro swears in Brazil’s new health minister, defends use of chloroquine

Brasilia, Sep 16 (efe-epa).- Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro on Wednesday swore in General Eduardo Pazuello as minister of health, a position he held temporarily since May, while again defending the use of chloroquine as a treatment for COVID-19.

After four months of being hit hard by the pandemic, which has left almost 134,000 deaths in the country, Brazil once again saw a new health minister taking office – the third since the first Brazilian case of COVID-19 was detected in February.

At the inauguration ceremony, Bolsonaro, who contracted the virus in July and has recovered, renewed his defense of the use of hydroxychloroquine, an antimalarial drug that he believes can treat the novel coronavirus but whose effectiveness has not been fully proven by science. He also waved around a box of tablets.

“There are studies that show that up to 30 percent of deaths could have been avoided with the early use of chloroquine,” insisted Bolsonaro, without citing the sources of those studies.

When Pazuello took office as an interim minister on May 15, Brazil had seen 14,817 deaths from COVID-19 and the number of confirmed cases totaled 218,223.

Four months later, the number of the deaths is nearing 134,000 and infections have risen to 4.4 million.

Pazuello was appointed deputy minister of health in April, but a few weeks later he was in charge of the office, after the resignation of oncologist Nelson Teich, who barely lasted a month in the position in which he replaced doctor Luiz Henrique Mandetta.

Mandetta was dismissed for defending quarantine and isolation measures that Bolsonaro denounced, while Teich resigned over the president’s insistence to use antimalarial chloroquine to treat COVID-19 patients.

Pazuello, with a lot of experience in logistics and none in health, initially assumed the office on an interim basis and remained in the position until now, when he was officially appointed minister.

Just a week after beginning his interim duties, one of the first steps he took was to launch chloroquine treatment to public health, despite the doubts that the drug still raises in the scientific community.

In political circles, such a decision could be interpreted as a typical attitude of the military and of “due obedience” to Bolsonaro, an Army reserve captain who, as president, also acts as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.

Pazuello was also the subject of criticism when, in June and also on Bolsonaro’s orders, he began to disclose only the daily numbers of the virus in the official gazettes and omit the accumulated figures, although that was later corrected by a judicial decision. EFE-EPA


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