Health Minister tests positive for coronavirus

health minister pazuello
President Bolsonaro watches as Health Minister Pazuello speaks. Photo: Isac Nobrega/PR

Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello has cleared his entire schedule for the week, after testing positive for Covid-19.

An Army general with a logistics background, Mr. Pazuello is the country’s third Health Minister in 2020 alone. He was appointed by President Jair Bolsonaro in mid-May, when oncologist Nelson Teich resigned after just 29 days in office, following disagreements over the government’s stance towards social isolation — which Mr. Bolsonaro is against — and unproven antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine, which the president touts as a potential “miracle cure,” despite a lack of any supporting scientific evidence.

Under Mr. Pazuello, however, the Health Minister has catered to the president’s wishes, and cleared the use of hydroxychloroquine for any coronavirus cases.

First rifts between Pazuello and Bolsonaro

After pressure from state governors, Mr. Pazuello announced that the ministry would purchase 46 million doses of the CoronaVac vaccine, developed by Chinese laboratory Sinovac in conjunction with Brazil’s Butantan Biological Institute. The following morning, however, President Bolsonaro said he had canceled the deal.

Mr. Bolsonaro is staunchly against the CoronaVac, as he sees its potential success as being a political victory of São Paulo Governor João Doria — his leading rival on the Brazilian right-wing — whose state has led negotiations with Sinovac to test the vaccine in São Paulo.

Behind the scenes, President Bolsonaro has reportedly complained that Health Minister Pazuello is getting too big for his boots and seeking publicity.

In fact, the Health Ministry has since gone back on its word, claiming that there was never any agreement to purchase 46 million CoronaVac doses, blaming the incident on a “misunderstanding.” Additionally, the ministry said that it does not intend to make vaccination mandatory, showing that Mr. Pazuello is falling in line with President Bolsonaro once again.

This post has been updated.

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