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Brazil's President Fires Health Minister Following Weeks of COVID-19 Disagreements

A photo by Agencia Brasil shows Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro, left, and his new Health Minister Nelson Teich during a news conference at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil, April 16, 2020.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Thursday fired Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta over disagreements about how to deal with the coronavirus outbreak.

Bolsonaro has argued that lockdowns and putting restrictions on business would harm the economy.

Mandetta’s dismissal follows a statement by a Brazilian governor, São Paulo Governor João Dori, that he had increased security for his wife and moved his children after receiving threats he said are tied to his criticism of Bolsonaro’s handling of the outbreak.

Nelson Teich, a leading Brazilian cancer specialist who has a working relationship with Bolsonaro, replaces orthopedist Mandetta, who clashed with the president over issues such as social isolation.

Teich, however, like Mandetta, supports social isolation as a means of containing the spread of the virus. But Bolsonaro has repeatedly said social isolation measures are bad for the economy.

Bolsonaro played down Mandetta's departure, reportedly saying it was a mutual decision.

Mandetta's dismissal ends weeks of bitterness between the two over the national response to the outbreak, which world experts believe is weeks away from peaking.

During a news conference Thursday, Mandetta told his former coworkers they had put forth a good effort up until this point.

On Thursday, Bolsanaro attempted to remind citizens he is sensitive to the crisis, saying life is priceless, but he went on to repeat his mantra that the economy and employment need to get back to some form of normal.

Medical experts in Brazil and abroad have criticized Bolsonaro for not taking a serious approach to dealing with the nation’s coronavirus outbreak, which as of Thursday had more than 30,000 people infected and just shy of 2,000 dead.