Bolsonaro names fourth health minister

·2-min read

Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro has named a doctor as the country's new health minister, hours after the general currently in the role confirmed Bolsonaro was weighing candidates to replace him.

Marcelo Queiroga, a cardiologist, is set to replace General Eduardo Pazuello and become the fourth health minister in Brazil since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Pazuello's job was on the line after a week that saw record COVID-19 fatalities in Brazil. More than 279,000 Brazilians have died in a worsening outbreak that killed more people in Brazil than any other nation last week.

Bolsonaro told reporters that Queiroga would follow Pazuello's agenda at the health ministry and the government would redouble efforts to implement mass vaccinations against the coronavirus.

Pazuello, an active-duty army general without a medical degree, has been criticised for lacking public health expertise and supporting Bolsonaro's push to use unproven drugs to fight COVID-19, while playing down the need for social distancing.

Pazuello's two predecessors resigned in roughly the span of a month last year, in part because as physicians they would not fully endorse treating COVID-19 patients with the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine.

Pazuello expanded access to hydroxychloroquine and allowed it to be prescribed to virtually anyone testing positive for the coronavirus. Regulators elsewhere have said hydroxychloroquine is unlikely to be effective for that purpose and have cautioned against its use.

Brazil has also been slower than many other countries to roll out the vaccine. It has administered enough vaccine so far to cover around 2.7 per cent of the population, according to Reuters data.

Pazuello's failure to secure timely supplies of vaccines for the country has led to calls for an inquiry in Congress, while the Supreme Court is investigating his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in the northern city of Manaus, which ran out of oxygen.

Brazil on Monday registered 1015 new coronavirus deaths, the health ministry said, totalling 279,286 dead since the pandemic began. Confirmed cases rose by 36,239 to 11,519,609.