Brazilian Health Minister Teich resigns just weeks into the job :
BY: SUKANYA SENGUPTA
Nelson Teich, left, and Jair Bolsonaro during his swearing-in ceremony a few weeks ago
Brazilian Health Minister Nelson Teich resigned on Friday only after a few weeks at work, adding to further problems in President Jair Bolsonaro’s handling of an accelerating coronavirus outbreak in one of the world’s worst hotspots.Teich, who Bolsonaro criticized as too shy in a campaign to reopen the economy and advocate the use of anti-malarial drugs to fight the virus, said he had decided to resign.
During a press conference on Friday, Teich thanked Bolsonaro for giving him the opportunity to work as health minister and said he did his best, but he gave no reason why he left the position.The loss of his second health minister in less than a month drew criticism from the right-wing politicians for Bolsonaro and they called for his removal. In Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, as the disease drove public hospitals to their capacity, Brazilians struck pots and pans from their windows in protest.
Military members of the Brazilian government are pushing for Deputy Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello, an army general on active duty, to become the new health minister, making his temporary role permanent. Teich struggled to reach consensus with state governments on guidelines for reopening their economies, as Bolsonaro demanded. He expressed surprise at a recent press conference when he learned of a presidential decree allowing gyms, beauty salons and hairdressers to open businesses. Perhaps Teich’s last straw is Bolsonaro’s insistence on the wider use of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for the new coronavirus, which the minister has resisted because of a lack of scientific evidence.
The US Food and Drug Administration warned last month against using malarial drug, which US President Donald Trump has described as “a game changer.” Medical researchers have found that the drug, which was first approved in 1955, did not provide any benefit and may increase the risk of death for COVID-19 patients. Teich resigned one day after Brazil reported a record number of new coronavirus infections. He had replaced Luiz Mandetta, who was forced out on April 16 to resist Bolsonaro’s pressure to boost hydroxychloroquine and fight social distancing orders by the state governments.
This week, Brazil overtook Germany and France in cases of coronavirus infection, as more than 200,000 diagnoses were confirmed as of Thursday, when the Ministry of Health reported 844 new deaths, bringing the number of deaths to 13,933. Marcelo Ramos of the liberal centrist party said the president would only accept a minister without regard to a science-based public health policy. Congressional opposition leader Alessandro Molon warned that Brazil was heading towards a public health disaster and said the president should be sacked.
Bolsonaro’s treatment of coronavirus has received global criticism, reducing the severity of the disease and telling Brazilians to ignore quarantine restrictions. “Let’s pray,” former minister Mandetta said on Twitter, calling for faith in science and support for Brazil’s public health system after Teich’s resignation.