Brazil to appoint new health minister as second Covid wave escalates

Brazil is due to replace its health minister for the third time since the start of the coronavirus crisis as Latin America’s largest nation struggles to contain an increasingly severe second wave of Covid-19.

The government will remove Eduardo Pazuello, an army general, from office after a week in which deaths reached record levels, while vaccine supply problems slowed a vaccination campaign.

President Jair Bolsonaro confirmed on Monday evening that he had invited Marcelo Queiroga, a cardiologist, to fill the post of what specialists have described as The worst moment in Brazil during the pandemic.

“[Queiroga] has everything to do a good job, continuing what Pazuello has done so far, ”said Bolsonaro, adding that a transition would take one to two weeks.

“Marcelo is a doctor and also a manager, more informed on health issues, [and] implement other programs that will reduce the higher number of deaths. “


the daily number of Brazilians who die from Covid-19

The decision to appoint a new health chief suggests that the political pressure is on the right-wing populist administration.

Nearly 280,000 people in Brazil have died of Covid-19, the highest absolute death toll after the United States, or 20th in the world after adjusting for population size.

After daily deaths passed the 2,000 mark, Bolsonaro came under intense pressure in Congress to expel Pazuello, who had headed the ministry since May.

The decision to replace Pazuello was announced just hours after a hastily organized press conference on Monday afternoon, in which Pazuello insisted more vaccines were on the way and defended his actions. department.

A sharp rise in cases in the South American nation, linked to a more contagious strain of coronavirus called P. 1, has resulted in intensive care units in many states nearing full capacity and triggered warnings about the risk overflow in other countries.

Last week, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the head of the World Health Organization, described the situation in Brazil as “deeply concerning” and urged that “serious” action be taken.

Pazuello’s passage to power was marked by a late start of vaccinations and desperate scenes in the Amazon city of Manaus, where the hospital system was overwhelmed and oxygen reserves are exhausted.

Under the leadership of the military logistics expert, the government continued to promote drugs such as the antimalarial chloroquine as “early treatment” against the coronavirus, despite a lack of evidence on its effectiveness.

The two health ministers preceding Pazuello, both with medical histories, left within a month after clashing with Bolsonaro over his approach to the crisis.

Bolsanaro has repeatedly downplayed the severity of the virus, spoke out against social distancing, and only recently publicly supported vaccines.

As several municipalities impose strict measures to curb the spread of infections, protests against lockdowns took place in cities like Brasilia, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro over the weekend.

Additional reporting by Carolina Pulice

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