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Brazil’s president fires health minister after coronavirus dispute

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro fired his health minister amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“I just heard from the President Jair Bolsonaro [that I have been dismissed from] the health ministry,” health minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta posted on his Twitter profile.

Mandetta, who is a doctor, had encouraged social distancing measures to curb the coronavirus outbreak as Bolsonaro downplayed the virus, calling it a “little flu”.

Many expected the Brazilian president to dismiss his minister after Bolsonaro made comments about acting against officials “who were full of themselves.”

“I want to thank you for the opportunity given to me, to be the manager of our [ministry], to set up the project to improve the health of Brazilians and to plan to face the coronavirus pandemic, a great challenge that our health system is facing,” Mandetta tweeted on Thursday evening.

At a press conference soon thereafter, Mandetta was received with applause by health ministry workers and offered his thanks to individuals with whom he had worked. He even thanked Bolsonaro.

“I leave the health ministry with a lot of gratitude to the president for having nominated me and allowing me to nominate each of you,” Mandetta said. “I know I am leaving the best team. Work for the next minister like you worked for me. Don’t spare any effort.”

While rising quickly, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Brazil is still relatively low in relation to the country’s massive population of 211 million. There have been almost 2,000 deaths.

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