Jair Bolsonaro’s Brazil bets on chloroquine

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The coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 325,000 people worldwide, is accelerating its progression in Brazil. The government recommended Wednesday the use of chloroquine, a controversial substance also advocated by US President Donald Trump.

The Brazilian Ministry of Health recommended Wednesday, May 20, the use of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine for patients slightly affected by Covid-19, after weeks of pressure from President Jair Bolsonaro, who sees it as a miracle cure .

“There is no scientific proof yet, but (chloroquine) is used under control in Brazil and in the world. We are at war, it is better to be defeated than to be ashamed of not having fought” , the far-right president tweeted on Wednesday.

This recommendation was made in a document of the ministry the day after the announcement of a daily record number of coronavirus deaths, crossing the threshold of a thousand deaths for the first time (+ 1,179 deaths in 24 hours). There are already 17,971 dead there.

>> To see: Populism and pandemic: the Brazilian shock

Previously, the use of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) in Brazilian public health services was reserved for severe cases of Covid-19.

The strong pressure exerted by President Bolsonaro, convinced of the effects – to date not scientifically proven – of chloroquine to fight the pandemic, led last Friday to the resignation Nelson Teich, the second Minister of Health to leave his post in less than a month.

Brazil, third most affected country in the world

The peak is not expected until June in this country which lists more than half of the confirmed cases in Latin America and the Caribbean. It is also the third country in the world in terms of confirmed cases, after the United States and Russia.

But President Bolsonaro has continued to put the magnitude of the pandemic into perspective and to criticize the containment measures taken by the governors of most of the 27 states. He wants to restart the economy.

In its new guidelines, the ministry recommends taking chloroquine and HCQ, a derivative used in particular to treat lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, at the first symptoms.

>> Read: In Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro salutes his supporters defying social distancing

The ministry’s protocol, however, points out that “there is no guarantee of a positive result” and that chloroquine, an antimalarial, can cause “serious” side effects up to “serious organ failure” and “until death”.

“Since there are no comprehensive studies proving the benefits of these molecules for the treatment of Covid-19, […] the decision to prescribe them rests with the doctor, with the patient’s agreement, “the document explains.

The ministry specifies that the public health services “have already used chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine extensively for the treatment of other infectious diseases”, while adding that “there are no other treatments at the moment effective available “.

Sold out

The ten pharmacies contacted by AFP on Wednesday in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo were all out of stock of these two drugs for several weeks.

Some Brazilian patients with lupus have reported on social networks great difficulty in obtaining hydroxychloroquine.

On Tuesday evening, Jair Bolsonaro recalled, in an interview broadcast on the Internet, that the American president Donald Trump had himself announced Monday taking a tablet of hydroxychloroquine every day, as a preventive measure.

The day Brazil crossed the thousand dead mark for the first time in 24 hours, it even allowed itself a joke, claiming that “the people on the right take chloroquine, those on the left of Tubaina”, a cheap soft drink.

The head of state also revealed that he kept “a small box” of chloroquine tablets in reserve in case his 93-year-old mother needed them.

With AFP

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