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Brazil's president fires health minister after dispute over coronavirus response

Brazil's president fires health minister after dispute over coronavirus response
© Stefani Reynolds

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro fired the country’s health minister Thursday reportedly after a dispute over Brazil’s coronavirus response.

Former health minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta announced his firing on Twitter, just weeks before public health officials estimate Brazil will hit its peak of coronavirus cases in May. 

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“I leave the health ministry with a lot of gratitude to the president for having nominated me and allowing me to nominate each of you,” Mandetta said, The Associated Press reported. “I know I am leaving the best team. Work for the next minister like you worked for me. Don’t spare any effort.”

“You should have absolute certainty that we fought a good fight until here,” he said during a televised press conference. “But we’re at the start of the battle.”

Mandetta, an orthopedist, has had public disagreements with Bolsonaro, as he has promoted stricter methods to contain the coronavirus like isolation measures that state governors have adopted. He has also earned comparisons to the U.S.’s Anthony FauciAnthony FauciTrump, Biden clash over coronavirus response, mounting death toll Stahl tells Pence he and Trump 'insulted 60 Minutes' by giving 'campaign speeches' How Trump lost to the coronavirus MORE, according to the AP.

The Brazilian president has downplayed the virus, calling it the “little flu,” called for the isolation of only the vulnerable populations and touted the anti-malarial drug that has not yet been proven to treat COVID-19.

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“Life is priceless, but the economy and employment need to return to normality,” Bolsonaro said at the press conference, adding “It was a consensual divorce because more important than me and more important than him as a minister is the health of the Brazilian people.”

Bolsonaro named Nelson Teich, an oncologist and senior health care consultant at Teich Health Care, as the next health minister, who said he believes “health and the economy are complementary.”

Before he fired Mandetta, Bolsonaro would exclude the health minister from meetings with health officials and had said Mandetta had not showed “humility,” according to the AP.