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Brazil health minister Teich resigns just weeks into the job

Nelson Teich disagreed with right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro over the country’s coronavirus response.

Brazilian Health Minister Nelson Teich resigned on Friday after just weeks on the job, adding to turmoil over President Jair Bolsonaro’s handling of an accelerating coronavirus outbreak in one of the world’s worst hotspots.

Teich, whom Bolsonaro had criticised as being too timid in the push to reopen the economy and advocate the use of anti-malarial drugs, submitted his resignation and will hold a news conference later on Friday, the ministry said.

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Military members of the Brazilian cabinet are pushing for deputy health minister Eduardo Pazuello, an army general on active duty, to become the new health minister, making permanent his interim role, a government source told Reuters news agency.

Last week, Teich said he was not consulted before Bolsonaro issued a decree allowing gyms, beauty parlours and hairdressers to open for business. Bolsonaro has also pushed for wider use of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for the novel coronavirus, which Teich resisted due to a lack of scientific evidence.

Teich is the second health minister to resign amid the pandemic in Brazil. He replaced Luiz Mandetta, who was forced out on April 16 for resisting Bolsonaro’s pressure to promote hydroxychloroquine and fight state government social distancing orders.

This week Brazil passed Germany and France in coronavirus cases, with more than 200,000 confirmed diagnoses by Thursday, when the Health Ministry reported 844 new deaths, bringing the death toll to 13,933.

Opposition and allied politicians criticised Bolsonaro’s intransigence. Legislator Marcelo Ramos of the centrist Liberal Party said the president would only accept a minister without regard for science-based public health policy.

Congressional opposition leader Alessandro Molon warned that Brazil was heading towards a public health catastrophe and said the president should be impeached.

“Bolsonaro does not want a technical minister, he wants someone who agrees with his ideological insanity, like ending social distancing and using chloroquine,” Molon, who is from the Brazilian Socialist Party, said in a statement.

Bolsonaro’s handling of the coronavirus has been widely criticised globally as he has minimised the severity of the disease and told Brazilians to ignore quarantine restrictions.

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