RIO DE JANEIRO – Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has won his arm wrestling against science and from now on chloroquine can also be administered to Covid-19 patients with mild symptoms. To get to this point, the ex-captain had to chase two health ministers, both doctors, and put a host of soldiers in their place, without any competence in the matter but by definition obedient to higher orders. Until now, the drug could only be prescribed to severe patients.
Dozens of international studies have shown that chloroquine and its close relative hydroxychloroquine – drugs effective in the fight against malaria and autoimmune diseases such as lupus of the skin – do not have a proven efficacy against Covid-19, although in some cases they can help. On the other hand, they can have dangerous side effects on the heart. Yet Bolsonaro, like Donald Trump, made chloroquine a matter of honor for his denial. Until it became the main issue in Brazil’s fight against the pandemic, which today has invaded the country in a worrying way, with almost 18,000 deaths and a very strong growth rate.
The post of Health Minister occupied at the moment interim by Eduardo Pazuello, a paratrooper general skilled in logistics: he worked on the safety of the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and Roraima, to face the exodus of the Venezuelans. Since it is increasingly difficult to find doctors who share Bolsonaro’s ideas (on chloroquine, but also on social isolation, considered useless), the ministry has been undefeated by the military. In the past two days Pazuello has named thirteen of them in key armchairs.
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