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Jair Bolsonaro recommends chloroquine for people with mild COVID-19 symptoms

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro

Brasilia, May 21 (UITV/IANS)- Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro recommended that chloroquine can be used to treat patients with mild symptoms of COVID-19, which has infected a total of 291,579 people in the country with 18,859 fatalities.

The Health Ministry on Wednesday published a new protocol on treating coronavirus patients that includes the potential use of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine when the symptoms are mild, despite the fact that the efficacy of these two anti-malarial drugs has not been proven in the fight against the virus, reports Efe news.

"It's a hopeful sign, as related by many who have used it," said Bolsonaro on Wednesday, a day after his US counterpart, Donald Trump, announced that he will continue taking hydroxychloroquine because he is "curious" about its effects.

The new protocol published in Brazil comes a day after major medical associations refused to advise the use of chloroquine and its derivatives, saying that the evidence about its efficacy in treating COVID-19 was "weak" and that, in addition, its use can result in severe side effects, including possibly fatal cardiac arrhythmias.

Despite the recommendations of medical experts, Bolsonaro said that the "war" being fought against the coronavirus in Brazil, the country with the third largest number of cases in the world, justified his administration's decision to authorize use of the drug.

"There still exists no scientific proof, but it's being experimented with and used in Brazil and all over the world. In any case: we're in a war ... (and) even worse than being defeated is the shame of not having fought at all," he said on his Twitter.

Bolsonaro's obsession with the medication has led to the downfall of two Brazilian health ministers in less than a month.

First, Luiz Henrique Mandetta was fired after several harsh confrontations with the president and then his successor, Nelson Teich, presented his resignation 28 days after taking over the post.

Teich was replaced on an interim basis by Gen. Eduardo Pazuello, a professional soldier with a solid resume but without any experience in the health sector and who on Wednesday signed the new protocol regarding the use of chloroquine, which has been used for decades to treat malaria.

Apart from promoting the use of chloroquine, the Brazilian government continues to lack a clearly enunciated strategy to combat the coronavirus, the peak of which in Brazil is expected in July.

Bolsonaro, meanwhile, continues to downplay the seriousness of the disease and is exerting pressure to reopen the country and resume economic activities of all sorts, this at a time when the country may be en route to surpassing the US as the world epicentre of the pandemic.

The Brazilian states, which have the autonomy to decide on measures such as social distancing, have adopted a number of approaches to deal with the crisis, but so far these have been insufficient to halt the spread of the virus in the South American giant.