Brazil marked 50 days without an official Health Minister on Saturday, as the coronavirus pandemic that has infected more than 1.5 million of its citizens, and killed at least 63,000, continues to grip the country.
The position has been temporarily filled by Army General Eduardo Pazzuello, who has no medical experience, since the last Health Minister, Nelson Teich, quit on May 15.
Teich, who spent less than a month in office, left amid criticism from President Jair Bolsonaro that he was “too timid in the push to reopen the economy and to advocate for the use of chloroquine.” Teich didn’t provide a reason for his resignation.
Teich’s predecesor, Luiz Henrique Mandetta, who advocated for social distancing measures and the use of masks was fired by Bolsonaro.
Bolsonaro, who frequently defies social distancing guidelines recommended by most health experts and has dismissed the virus as “a little flu,” has been widely criticized for downplaying the severity of the virus.
On Friday, Bolsonaro vetoed parts of a law that mandates wearing face masks in public during the pandemic. The use of masks in shopping malls, stores, religious temples, educational establishments and other closed places where people gather will no longer be mandatory, but individual states and municipalities can enforce those measures.
Brazil has the second highest number coronavirus cases and deaths globally after the US.