Brazil president names fourth health minister

SAO PAULO (AP) — Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro picked his fourth health minister since the pandemic began, this time the head of the country’s cardiology society who in the past has spoken favourably of the country’s conservative leader.

Marcelo Queiroga will replace Eduardo Pazuello, an active-duty army general with expertise in logistics who landed the position last May despite having no prior health experience.

Queiroga said in a press conference in capital Brasilia on Tuesday that the COVID-19 policy he will implement “is of the Bolsonaro administration, not of the health minister.”

“I came to work for Brazil and other ministers of the Bolsonaro administration. The president is very worried about the situation,” said Queiroga, who insisted he is against any lockdown measures. Some Brazilian cities are implementing restrictive shutdowns to halt
the spread.

Pazuello had presided over the Health ministry for the longest period of the three pandemic ministers before Queiroga. The revolving door reflects the challenges for the government of Latin America’s largest nation to implement effective measures to control the virus’ spread or even agree which measures are necessary.

Queiroga has already called Bolsonaro “a great Brazilian”. His social media channels have not made any criticism of the president’s handling of the pandemic and pushed for a quick vaccine rollout.

João Gabbardo, a former secretary-executive of the Health Ministry, said on Twitter that Queiroga will face the worst figures of the pandemic in Brazil when he takes over.

“The record number of deaths today will be in a high scale. A suggestion; do not speak against a national lockdown,” said Gabbardo, who now works for the Sao Paulo state government.

On Tuesday night Brazil reported record 2,841 confirmed deaths by COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, which is 558 more than the previous all-time high established yesterday

On Monday, Pazuello acknowledged in a press conference that Bolsonaro aimed to replace him. The first candidate for the job, cardiologist Ludhmila Hajjar, rejected it.

Pazuello’s two predecessors left the position amid disagreements with Bolsonaro, who criticized broad social distancing and supported the use of an unproven anti-malarial drug to treat the disease. He continues to hold those positions.