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Brazilian leader fires health minister after virus dispute

Mr Mandetta has drawn comparisons to Dr Anthony Fauci, US President Donald Trump’s top virus expert.

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Brazil’s Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta and President Jair Bolsonaro (Andre Borges/AP)

Brazil’s Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta and President Jair Bolsonaro (Andre Borges/AP)

Brazil’s Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta and President Jair Bolsonaro (Andre Borges/AP)

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has fired his health minister after a series of disagreements over government efforts to contain coronavirus.

I just heard from the President Jair Bolsonaro the news of my dismissal from the health ministry,” Luiz Henrique Mandetta posted on his verified Twitter profile, adding that he wished success to his replacement, who is yet to be named officially.

Mr Mandetta, a doctor, gained popular support for his pandemic response that included promotion of broad isolation measures enacted by state governors.

Mr Bolsonaro has repeatedly characterised the virus as a “little flu”, and said shutting down the economy would cause more damage than confining only high-risk Brazilians, and touted the yet-unproven efficacy of an anti-malarial drug.

Mr Mandetta has drawn comparisons to Dr Anthony Fauci, US President Donald Trump’s top virus expert.

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Dr Anthony Fauci (Alex Brandon/AP)

Dr Anthony Fauci (Alex Brandon/AP)

AP/PA Images

Dr Anthony Fauci (Alex Brandon/AP)

Dr Fauci and Mr Mandetta have often made public statements about the virus that differed with those of their bosses.

Afterwards, Mr Bolsonaro and President Trump’s bases each took to Twitter to call for removal of their country’s top health official. The White House has said this week that Dr Fauci’s job is secure.

Republicans close to the White House say President Trump has complained about Dr Fauci’s positive media attention and sought to leave him out of task force briefings.

Mr Bolsonaro, likewise, had convened doctors without inviting Mr Mandetta and, in a televised interview earlier this month, said Mr Mandetta had failed to show “humility”.

A few days later, on April 5, Mr Bolsonaro told a group of supporters that he would act against officials in his government who “are full of themselves”.

Those comments were widely understood as signalling an end to Mr Mandetta’s tenure, so much so that the minister said the next day his subordinates had cleaned out his desk.

He survived, but questions have since swirled over whether Mr Bolsonaro had indeed backed away from dismissing the man whose Covid-19 response was welcomed by many Brazilians, or if he were just biding his time while recruiting a replacement.

PA Media