Brazil's health minister Nelson Teich resigned from his post in less than a month of being appointed after President Jair Bolsonaro pressurized him to expand the use of antimalarial drug chloroquine to treat COVID-19 patients. "Life is made up of choices and today I decided to leave," Teich told reporters at Brasilia. However, he not did give any reason for quitting and also refused to answer questions from the media.

Gen Eduardo Pazuello will be the interim minister until a replacement is chosen. He previously has no experience in the health sector but was appointed as the second most influential official in the Health Ministry in April.

Bolsonaro's claims on chloroquine

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro Wikimedia Commons

Being a doctor himself, an oncologist and health care consultant Teich took the extreme step and resigned from the post of health minister as he could not agree with Bolsonaro's claim on the uses of chloroquine. He took charge of the office on April 17, after his predecessor Luiz Henrique Mandetta was sacked as the health minister after he rejected Bolsonaro's demand to use hydroxychloroquine on COVID 19 patients along with his demand to open markets in Brazil.

It is also said that Teich could not deliver his duties freely as dozens of military personnel were appointed in various capacities in the health ministry. When appointed, Teich's first job was to align the ministry's actions with the president's view of the opening economy and business opportunities in Brazil, despite coronavirus spread.

Bolsonaro in a video conference with business leaders had promised to ease rules for the use of chloroquine while Teich had earlier too warned of side effects of using the antimalarial drug. Following directions from Bolsonaro, Army Chemical and Pharmaceutical Laboratory started boosting chloroquine production in late March. In fact, scientists in Brazil even stopped part of a study based on chloroquine after heart rhythm problems developed in one-quarter of people given doses of the antimalarial drug.

Current COVID-19 situation in Brazil

Experts opine that the number of deaths is high in Brazil due to insufficient testing. Currently, Brazil has 220,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and reported 14,962 deaths as on May 16.

Meanwhile, governors have refrained from promoting hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 patients and have said that Teich's resignation is a mirror to Bolsonaro's failure to manage the coronavirus pandemic.