Brazil health minister hospitalized with COVID-19

Brazil's interim Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello walks before a ceremony at the Planalto Palace

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazilian Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello is in stable condition in a hospital after being diagnosed with COVID-19, the ministry said in a statement on Saturday.

Pazuello checked into a hospital in Brasilia on Friday for dehydration, having tested positive for the coronavirus on Oct. 21. He will stay in the hospital until Sunday, when he will be reevaluated, the ministry said.

"There has been no need for supportive measures such as oxygen supplementation," the statement said.

One day after testing positive, Pazuello met with right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro in a hotel room, with a social media video showing the two chatting without masks. Bolsonaro recovered from a bout of COVID-19 in July.

The president said Pazuello's case was another instance demonstrating that the controversial drug chloroquine helped those with COVID-19 to recover quickly.

Bolsonaro, who has sought to downplay the severity of the virus, has advocated for the use of the anti-malarial drug chloroquine and related hydroxychloroquine, despite a lack of scientific evidence that they help those with COVID-19.

During the pandemic, two successive health ministers resigned in roughly the span of a month, in part because as physicians, themselves, they would not fully endorse chloroquine. Pazuello, an active-duty Army general without a medical degree, has expanded access to chloroquine and allowed it to be prescribed to virtually anyone who tests positive for the coronavirus.

Brazil has the second deadliest outbreak of coronavirus, with 159,477 deaths, after only the United States, according to a Reuters tally. Roughly half of Bolsonaro's 23-member cabinet have caught the coronavirus, as well as the president and his wife.

(Reporting by Lisandra Paraguassu; writing by Jake Spring; Editing by Leslie Adler)