Brazilian President Bolsanaro fires Health Minister in shock coronavirus clash
The Brazilian President has been highly sceptical of the virus’ threat and has stated his desire to reopen the countries economy.
President Bolsonaro said Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta did not fully appreciate the need to protect Brazilian jobs and called again for a resumption of economic activity.
He said: “We need to return to normal, not as fast as possible, but we need to start having some flexibility.
“Life is priceless, but the economy and employment need to return to normality.”
His remarks met with pot-banging protests in major cities.
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Mandetta was one of Brazil’s biggest proponents of social distancing, supporting governors’ decisions to shut down schools and businesses.
His approach put him at odds with Bolsonaro, who has previously downplayed Covid-19 as nothing more than a “little flu.”
The outgoing health minister tweeted: “I just heard from President Jair Bolsonaro the notice of my resignation from the Ministry of Health.
“I want to thank the opportunity that I was given, to be a manager of our SUS, to set up the project to improve the health of Brazilians and to plan to face the coronavirus pandemic, the great challenge that our health system is facing.”
On Thursday he had told a group of healthcare industry officials that he expected to be out of a job by Friday.
His replacement, Nelson Teich, previously supported Bolsonaro in his election campaign.
He was asked at a news conference about the ministry’s position on coronavirus distancing measures.
He said that there would not be any “sudden changes”, but there would be a difference in approach.
“There is a complete alignment between me and the president.”
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Senator Major Olimpio, Bolsonaro’s former right-hand man in Congress, praised Mandetta for sticking to scientific principles in the public health crisis.
He has also urged the new minister to defend the need for isolation measures.
Olimpio said: “Teich has defended social distancing.
If he persists in this, he will have serious problems with President Bolsonaro and won’t last 30 days in office, or he will have to tear up his degree and contradict the entire global scientific community.”
Brazil has seen 30,425 confirmed cases of coronavirus.
The country has seen around 200 fatalities per day.
This brings it’s total death toll to 1,924 on Thursday, according to Health Ministry data.
Brazil has the highest death toll in the Latin American continent.
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