Brazil’s Health Minister Tests Positive for Covid at U.N.

Brazil’s health minister said that he had tested positive for the coronavirus on Tuesday in New York, where he was attending the United Nations General Assembly along with the country’s unvaccinated president, Jair Bolsonaro.

The health minister, Marcelo Queiroga, tweeted that he would quarantine in the United States and was “following all health safety protocols.” Dr. Queiroga, who is a cardiologist, received the CoronaVac vaccine, made by Beijing-based Sinovac, early this year.

The entire Brazilian delegation “has decided to self-quarantine for 14 days,” said Stéphane Dujarric, a U.N. spokesman.

Dr. Queiroga had accompanied Mr. Bolsonaro during his visit to New York for the U.N. meeting. Before testing positive, he was seen on video shaking hands with Britain’s prime minister, Boris Johnson, when Mr. Johnson met Mr. Bolsonaro on Monday.

Contrary to earlier reports, Dr. Queiroga did not meet this week with Secretary General Antonio Guterres, Mr. Dujarric said.

“We have looked into the potential exposure to U.N. staff” in the General Assembly hall, “and contact tracing is being finalized,” Mr. Dujarric said. “At present, no close contacts amongst U.N. staff have been identified.”

On Monday night, Dr. Queiroga made headlines in Brazil after he was filmed giving anti-Bolsonaro demonstrators the middle finger as he and other members of the government delegation left a dinner at the residence of the country’s ambassador to the United Nations.

The president’s office said in a statement issued late Tuesday that Dr. Queiroga would remain in the United States while he recovers and said he was “doing well.”

“We also inform that the other members of the delegation tested negative for the virus,” the statement said.

Dr. Queiroga had a busy agenda in New York. He had breakfast with a group of investors; participated in a meeting with Brazil’s first lady, Michelle Bolsonaro; paid tribute at the Sept. 11 memorial; and spoke to senior officials at the World Health Organization.

In March, he became Mr. Bolsonaro’s fourth health minister in less than a year; the first two were forced out after disagreeing with the president on handling the pandemic. Dr. Queiroga’s tenure has been marred by allegations that senior ministry officials sought kickbacks as they negotiated the purchase of Covid-19 vaccines.

Mr. Bolsonaro’s handling of the pandemic in South America’s largest country has been widely criticized. On Tuesday, he used his speech at the General Assembly to defend the use of ineffective drugs to treat the coronavirus and argued that doctors should have had more leeway in administering untested medications for Covid-19.

Mr. Bolsonaro, who had a mild case of Covid-19 in July of last year, has said he was in no hurry to get vaccinated, which made for an awkward exchange during his meeting with Mr. Johnson, who hailed the AstraZeneca vaccine, which was developed in Britain at Oxford University.

“Get AstraZeneca vaccines,” said Mr. Johnson, who survived a serious case of Covid last year. “I’ve had it twice.”

Mr. Bolsonaro pointed to himself and said: “Not yet.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.