Tiago Tasca By: Tiago Tasca
Researcher in Global Health
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20 May 2020 : Hope(less)

It was a tough day. Today I had two meetings about two relevant types of research: one about a large project with the Brazilian Ministry of Health on obesity and multilateralism, the other about noncommunicable disease risk factors with our Latin American partners (among them Peru, Argentina, Mexico, and Costa Rica). Then, I realized how technology had enabled us to connect with our foreign partners. It is incredible that now we can elaborate continental research proposals in a 2-hour webconference. I think this is amazing, and COVID-19 is showing us that more web conferences are possible (rather than carbon-intensive meetings all over the world). This week also crystallized this by demonstrating that even a world forum can be held online: the World Health Assembly was extraordinary, and despite some connectivity problems, I think it was pretty well done! Except for the void speech made by the Brazilian Ministry of Health.

Since the beginning of the pandemics, our brilliant president (please note sarcasm) fired two (I said TWO) Ministers of Health (the Ministry of Justice also left his office... this is not causation, but if you count, three bureaucrats left their offices, I think it is a lot, especially during the pandemic scenario). We now have a "temporary" Minister of Health: he is military and does not have any experience in health. His experiences are on public management (cool). Still, I sincerely think that we do not need a good business person for this office now, we need an excellent minister who can communicate and adopt science-based decisions. This new Minister also hired nine other militaries to head positions in the ministry. Some people said that this could be called a "militarization" of the Ministry of Health. The Armed Forces just denied any effort to militarize the ministry. While we are doing such a "chairs dance," many people are dying: yesterday, we reach our highest mark: 1,170 deaths in 24h.

One thing is clear: Bolsonaro fired the former two MoH because they did want to approve hydroxy-chloroquine and because they were against the ending of quarantine. This new one (temporary) will authorize the chloroquine protocol and do everything he can to finish the quarantine in Brazil. Media said that the next Minister (yes, we will have a fourth one!) would be someone:

  1. Who agrees with the president about the chloroquine protocols.
  2. Who agrees with the president about the end of quarantine measures (sure we have some bioethics problems here between economic versus public health concerns)
  3. Who is as pathetic as our president (maybe a little bit less).

Oh, I also forgot: the national Culture Secretary was also fired today. Another thing is clear for me: Bolsonaro is trying to divert attention from his neglecting (and erratic) behavior about COVID-19 responses (he is under pressure of the business sector who raised the trending topic #BrazilCannotStop and also he has such strong beliefs that COVID-19 is not a serious threat - well, we now got the third place in diagnosed cases (in global scale) - please note that are not testing everybody). He does not even know how to be a president; he is not reacting correctly (an impeachment process had already begun in the Brazilian Supreme Court, but I am not sure about its continuity and impartiality). At the beginning of this crisis, I honestly hoped that COVID-19 could teach him how to be more human and more empathetic with vulnerable people (especially indigenous populations and homeless people). Notwithstanding, I am tired and now feeling hopeless about him, maybe even about my country, yet I keep trusting in humanity (especially when I see all the worldwide gratitute demonstration for our health professionals). 

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