Society

"I accepted the position because I thought I could help the country," says the now-former Brazilian Heath Minister

Brazil's Health Minister asked to leave Jair Bolsonaro's government after just weeks on the job

Nelson Teich, the now former Health Minister of Brazil. Photo: Marcello Casal JrAgência Brasil

In a short statement to the press, the now-former Brazilian Health Minister, Nelson Teich, thanked his team and all the frontline responders in the fight against COVID-19 in the country. He said that he leaves Jair Bolsonaro‘s government with a comprehensive testing program ready to be implemented.

Unlike the previous minister, who had strong support from the population, Luiz Henrique Mandetta, Teich did not give details about his resignation, but political analysts say that his main disagreement with Bolsonaro was the usage of chloroquine in the treatment of COVID-19.

Like the U.S. President Donald Trump, Bolsonaro is an enthusiast of the drug indicated to treat malaria, lupus, and other diseases. Both Mandetta and Teich, however, like many scientists, have always asked for caution when prescribing the drug, since there is still no conclusive research to prove its effectiveness against the new coronavirus.

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It is important to note that the Brazilian health authorities already authorize the use of the drug in more severe cases of the disease. The Federal Council of Medicine in Brazil also authorizes professionals to prescribe the medicine, provided that the side effects and risks of using the medicine are well explained and that the patient or family also agrees to use the drug.

In general, what the former ministers advocate, as well as scientists, is that chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine should be used only in the context of controlled tests. Bolsonaro, in his turn, wants the Ministry of Health to effectively recommend the use of the drug, even without scientific proof of the drug against COVID-19 so far.

According to political analysts, Teich would have said that “he would not tear his medical degree”, referring to the pressure of the Brazilian president for him to sign, on behalf of the Ministry of Health, a recommendation for the use of chloroquine in treatment against COVID-19.

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But not just this: Bolsonaro’s decree that expanded essential activities during the pandemic period and included beauty salons, barbershops, and fitness centers was also a point of friction between the two. Bolsonaro did not consult the Ministry of Health before making this decision.

Besides that, whenever he has the chance, Bolsonaro argues for more immediate and wider flexibility of the isolation measures. Teich, in his turn, admittedly talked about easing the isolation measures, but (very) slowly and gradually, through a methodology with clear criteria.

During the weeks he was in charge of the Ministry of Health, Teich visited some of the cities most affected by the pandemic and saw, up close, the hard work of health professionals in the country.

It is not a simple thing to be in charge of a ministry like this. I always thank the team that was at my side. I had the honor and the pleasure of being with those people who always worked for this country

Nelson Teich, former Brazilian Health Minister.

“Here I outline a strategic plan that has been initiated and that must be followed. It is important to remember that we have a total focus on COVID, but we need to remember that there are a whole system and a population that needs to be taken care of. During this (pandemic) period, the entire system is (also) thought of in parallel. Furthermore, a testing program has been organized and is ready to be implemented”, stressed Teich.

“I thank President Jair Bolsonaro for the opportunity to be part of the Ministry of Health. I wrote once that I am a person formed by the public system (as someone that always studied in public schools, colleges, and chose the public service as his career). Most importantly, I didn’t accept the invitation for the position, I accepted it because I thought I could help the country, and people,” Teich added.

Teich is the second minister to step down amid the coronavirus pandemic in the country.

A message to Bolsonaro?

Although he did not speak directly about the reasons that led him to leave Bolsonaro’s government, Teich insisted that Health actions in Brazil are tripartite, that is, they depend on coordination between the federal government and state governments and city halls.

The mention may have been a way of saying that if Bolsonaro does not dialogue with governors and mayors, the pandemic will not be overcome in the country.

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The political turbulence effects on the financial market

After the announcement of Teich’s resignation, the dollar, which had fallen against the Brazilian Real earlier in the morning, with a meeting between Bolsonaro and Rodrigo Maia, the president of the Lower House of Representatives, rose again.

At around 4:30 pm, close to the pre-closing of the financial market, the US currency was quoted at BRL 5.84.