Brazil’s Minister of Health Luiz Henrique Mandetta reacts during a news conference on April 15.

Ueslei Marcelino / Reuters

On Thursday, Brazil’s popular health minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta announced he had been fired by president Jair Bolsonaro, after the pair had been clashing for several weeks over how Brazil should deal with the coronavirus.

Bolsonaro has been downplaying the virus, calling it a “little flu” and repeatedly saying the economy was more important. Mandetta, on the other hand, advised people to take it seriously and practise social distancing. 

As soon as the announcement was made people began banging their pots in protest and calling on Bolsonaro to quit instead. 

As of April 17, Brazil has 30,683 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 1,947 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. 

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Brazil’s health minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta has been fired by President Jair Bolsonaro.

Mandetta, a doctor and popular politician, was fired after publicly disagreeing with Bolsonaro over how to deal with the coronavirus in Brazil for the last few weeks.

According to the Financial Times, Mandetta’s professional competence was comparable to that of Dr. Anthony Fauci. He’s backed the World Health Organization’s calls for social distancing, while Bolsonaro focused on keeping Brazil’s economy moving.

Mandetta also disagreed with Bolsonaro about using hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug that President Donald Trump has energetically backed for treating the coronavirus. 

Bolsonaro said Mandetta was leaving by “mutual consent,” according to NPR. But when Mandetta made the announcement on Twitter, he said, “I have just heard from the president I have been fired.” He also said the coronavirus was the “greatest challenge that our health system faces.”

As of April 17, Brazil has 30,683 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 1,947 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The loss of the health minister is bad timing, according to the Wall Street Journal, as infectious-disease experts have said that infections and deaths are rising far quicker than Brazilian hospitals can cope with. 

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According to domestic media, another reason Bolsonaro fired Mandetta was the former health minister’s popularity. A recent poll said Mandetta had an approval rating of 76%, while Bolsonaro was at 33%. He had almost been fired a week earlier, but other politicians stepped in and managed to stop Bolsonaro.

Mandetta wasn’t afraid to criticize Bolsonaro. When the president made public visits in close quarters in recent weeks, Mandetta said it was “the wrong thing to do.” While Bolsonaro undermined Mandetta by repeatedly calling the coronavirus a “little flu.”

As soon as his firing was announced people began to protest by banging pots through their windows and calling for Bolsonaro to quit instead.

Mandetta’s replacement is a cancer specialist named Nelson Teich, who has advised Bolsonaro on healthcare before. 

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Gail Baker