Brazil hits record COVID-19 deaths

Just as Brazil’s fourth health minister in the span of a year is set to start his new job, the country reported a record COVID-19 death toll.

2,841 deaths tallied on Tuesday is Brazil’s worst yet and last week, it led the world in fatalities.

Meanwhile, new health minister nominee Marcelo Queiroga pledged to continue controversial policies of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro who has downplayed the severity of the disease.

''Policy belongs to Bolsonaro’s government, not to the Health Ministry. The Health Ministry executes the government's policy.''

Queiroga asked Brazilians to wear masks and wash their hands at a press conference on Tuesday, but stopped short of endorsing social distancing or lockdowns.

Queiroga will begin by meeting with his predecessor, Eduardo Pazuello who left office under pressure as fatalities surged.

Pazuello was criticized for his lack of public health expertise, and rubber stamping Bolsonaro’s decisions.

He also endorsed the use of anti-malarial drugs to treat COVID-19, a treatment disputed by many health care providers.

The two ministers before him quit in the span of a month last year in part because they would not endorse anti-malarial hydroxychloroquine as a treatment.

In a newspaper interview over the weekend newcomer Queiroga criticized the use of the drug.

However, he also said that lockdowns are not necessary, which supports Bolsonaro's stance, in defiance of most public health experts.