Cabinet member tests positive for Covid-19

Cabinet member tests positive for Covid-19
Citizenship Minister Onyx Lorenzoni. Photo: Marcos Corrêa/PR

Citizenship Minister Onyx Lorenzoni, one of President Jair Bolsonaro’s staunchest supporters, has caught the coronavirus. Mr. Lorenzoni used the announcement to tout antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine. “Since Friday, I am following a treatment based on azithromycin, ivermectin, and chloroquine — and I already feel the positive effects,” he said, repeating the same stunt pulled by his boss two weeks ago (when Mr. Bolsonaro himself tested positive for the coronavirus).

Hydroxychloroquine, however, has no proven efficacy against the coronavirus. More than that, a Brazilian study carried out in the Amazonian city of Manaus suggests that it may actually be harmful.

Back in April, researchers halted their trials after observing that patients who received higher doses of chloroquine showed alterations in their heart rates — presenting QT intervals over 500 milliseconds —  and higher lethality rates — 17 percent, against 13.5 percent among similar patients not using the drug. In a yet to be peer-reviewed study, the researchers say chloroquine “should not be recommended for Covid-19 treatment because of its potential safety hazards.”

Who is Onyx Lorenzoni?

Mr. Lorenzoni heads the Citizenship Ministry, which oversees the payment of the BRL 600 coronavirus emergency stipend. Despite several glitches, the program has prevented millions from falling below the poverty line and has improved President Jair Bolsonaro’s approval ratings. To the point that the government has announced that it will launch an “enhanced” version of the Bolsa Família cash transfer program in order to retain this support.

Bolsonaro and unproven drugs

Hydroxychloroquine is by no means the first drug Jair Bolsonaro endorsed before scientific evidence warranted him to do so. As reporter André Cabette Fábio wrote on April 9, years before Mr. Bolsonaro was considered a viable presidential candidate, the then member of Congress gained national attention in 2016 while promoting a bill to legalize an unproven cancer treatment known simply as “the cancer pill.”

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