FILE PHOTO: Cuban doctors
Credit: Al Jazeera

Brazil will employ 157 Cuban doctors to help it deal with its massive COVID-19 crisis, the government announced on Monday.

Havana had ended a medical cooperation programme launched under leftist president Dilma Rousseff in 2013 after far-right President Jair Bolsonaro five years later criticised the terms of the doctors’ contracts and called Cuba a “dictatorship.”

Brazil is now reactivating cooperation. The Health Ministry on Monday published a list of an initial group of 157 Cuban doctors who will start working in Brazil again. More are expected to follow.

Brazil wants to ensure medical care even in remote areas, where Cuban doctors had earlier been deployed.

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Novel coronavirus infections will keep increasing in Brazil until August, a former health minister, meanwhile, said as the number of deaths rose by 298 to a total of 16,118 in three days.

The Health Ministry on Sunday confirmed a total of 241,080 COVID-19 cases.

That makes the South American giant the country with the fourth-largest number of infections and the sixth-biggest number of deaths in the world, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Bolsonaro has downplayed the crisis and encouraged measures to open up the economy.

But Brazil still has at least another 12 “tough” weeks ahead, with infections expected to peak in July, former health minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta told the daily Folha de Sao Paulo.

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Infections will only start going down in August, Mandetta said. September will see “a point closer to something more pleasant.”

The Brazilian state of Sao Paulo has already surpassed China in the number of deaths.

Tensions over the virus response are growing in Brazil, with Bolsonaro’s health minister Nelson Teich resigning on Friday after less than a month on the job.