On August 9, Brazil reported 23,010 new cases of the novel coronavirus and 572 deaths, bringing its total number of cases to 3,035,422 since the pandemic began and the official death toll to 101,049. The bleak statistics further show that after the United States, it is Brazil that has been the worst affected by the pandemic. And as per Jair Bolsonaro’s former health minister, the Brazilian president has only exacerbated the crisis. 

In a recent interview, Luiz Henrique Mandette, the former Brazillian health minister who was sacked in April 2020 for challenging how the president was responding to the pandemic, talked at length about how the nation’s leaders have failed its masses. 

“There are 100,000 Brazilian families who have yet to receive a single word of comfort or solidarity from the government,” said Mandetta.

On August 8, after many news outlets announced that the number of deaths in Brazil has risen to 100,240, all Bolsonaro had to say to his country of over 210m citizens was that they should put the crisis behind them. 

“We regret all of the deaths,” he said during his weekly live broadcast. “But let’s get on with our lives, get on with our lives and try to find a way of getting away with this problem.”

He went on to imply that the high number of deaths was a farce and was being faked by state governors in order “to panic the population”. But as usual he didn’t support his claims with any proof. 

Such public statements and Bolsonaro’s methods of tackling the pandemic have been all part of his severely “misguided” way of handling the crisis, said Mandetta. He further reflected upon the president promoting the use of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for COVID-19, even though it has been proved that the anti-malarial drug is ineffective against coronavirus.

“Chloroquine was brought into the debate as a political prop designed to prevent the decisions taken by the president of the republic, to dismantle the health ministry … from being discussed,” said Mandetta. “His responsibility needed to be diminished and he used chloroquine to mitigate his responsibility.”

Mandetta also criticized the President’s decision to make an active duty army general his interim chief after he lost his second health minister, Nelson Teich, less than a month after Mandetta’s was sacked. 

“You can’t go to war with doctors. You can’t do healthcare with soldiers,” said Mandetta, adding that the ministry needs more health experts.

Jair Bolsonaro Jair Bolsonaro, presidential candidate for the Social Liberal Party, attends an interview for Correio Brazilianse newspaper in Brasilia, June 6, 2018. Getty Images/ EVARISTO SA