President Jair Bolsonaro has replaced six government ministers in Brazil, a move that appears to possibly gain greater loyalty as the country’s Covid-19 crisis worsens and political pressure mounts. The former ministers released their resignation letters throughout the day. In a ministry statement, Former Defense Minister Fernando Azevedo e Silva bared that he had “preserved the Armed Forces as institutions of the state.” He will be replaced by Army General Braga Netto, the former Government Minister. Former Attorney General Andre Levi will be succeeded by Andre Mendonca, whose former post as Justice Minister will now be assumed by Federal Police Chief Anderson Torres, a family friend of the president. Last week, Marcelo Queiroga has taken up his position as Brazil’s fourth health minister since the beginning of the pandemic. The cabinet reshuffle, most likely, places several army generals closer to Bolsonaro in more strategic positions. Among the changes is a new COVID-19 crisis committee consisting of several state officials created to combat the catastrophic coronavirus resurgence in Brazil.

Bolsonaro is widely being criticized for his poor response to the pandemic as the new coronavirus variant spreads through the country, pushing hospitals to the brink, with younger Brazilians developing severe COVID-19 symptoms and dying. Brazil has recently recorded more than 3,000 deaths for the second day in a row. The country’s health ministry on Thursday registered more than 100,000 new coronavirus cases within 24 hours. More than 500 prominent business leaders last month released an open letter demanding stronger COVID-19 action. But Bolsonaro so far remains deaf to calls of change on his approach toward the virus– an attitude further brought to light by putting familiar faces in charge of top positions in the ministries of foreign affairs and defense. Bolsanaro announced last week during an official government ceremony on education that, “We must fight against the virus and not against the President.”