Health Minister defends medical screening over social distancing

Health Minister defends medical screening over social distancing
Interim Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello (center, with a navy blue mask), inaugurates a hospital wing in Amazonas. Photo: Ascom/MS

In an interview with CNN Brasil, Brazil’s Interim Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello defended medical screening measures as more effective than the social isolation protocols employed across the world in the fight against Covid-19.

Mr. Pazuello also suggested the shift of the Health Ministry from discussing isolation to promoting increased medical screening nationwide. “What is more important than discussing the [appropriate] degree of isolation, or if there will be isolation or not, is the need for medical screenings,” Mr. Pazuello told CNN Brasil, pointing our that 100 percent isolation does not exist. 

According to the Health Minister, an Army General with no previous medical experience, social distancing measures will be left up to state governors and mayors, indicating that the Ministry won’t be providing any guidelines or recommendations on social distancing anytime soon. Medical screening includes temperature, blood pressure, and oxygenation checks––and medical examination when necessary. It is unclear whether Brazil can implement such an approach.

Additionally, the Interim Minister also provided updates on the vaccines being produced in São Paulo and Minas Gerais, both are expected to be completed midway through 2021. Brazil is also currently participating in trials of two of the most promising vaccine developments in partnership with the University of Oxford and the Chinese Sinovac Biotec. Brazil is seen as an ideal testing site due to the fact the infection curve is still rising.

The Health Ministry’s revolving door

Mr. Pazuello does not expect to be the chief officer of the Health Ministry for too long, he hinted at a possible exit next week with the selection of a new Health Minister by President Jair Bolsonaro –  which would be his fourth amid the worst pandemic in Brazilian history.Mr. Pazuello took over the Ministry on May 16 after Oncologist Nelson Teich resigned from the Ministry due to disputes over Bolsonaro’s handling of the pandemic. However, unlike his predecessors, Mr. Pazuello had no previous experience in the health field, which raised questions about his qualifications and his subsequent packing of the Ministry with military officials.

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