Bolsonaro, an ideological ally of Trump, has been criticised for his handling of the outbreak, such as opposition to restrictions on movement he sees as too damaging to the economy.
Bolsonaro said Interim Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello would issue new guidelines on Wednesday expanding the recommended use of the anti-malarial drug chloroquine to treat the coronavirus.
Two trained doctors have resigned as health minister in the past month as Bolsonaro defied public health expert advice.
Bolsonaro told website Blog do Magno that Pazuello, an active-duty army general, would sign the new chloroquine guidelines and keep the top job for now. He added that his mother was 93 years old, and he kept a box of chloroquine on hand should she need it.
Trump, who announced on Tuesday he was taking chloroquine preventively, said: “I don’t want people coming over here and infecting our people. I don’t want people over there sick either. We’re helping Brazil with ventilators … Brazil is having some trouble, no question about it.”
Pan American Health Organisation officials said in a virtual briefing they were concerned about the virus’ spread in the tri-border area of the Amazon between Colombia, Peru and Brazil.
They urged special measures to protect vulnerable populations among the indigenous, poor and racial minorities.
Beyond the hot spots of Brazil and Mexico, the virus is threatening to overwhelm Latin American cities large and small in an alarming sign that the pandemic may be only at the start of its destructive march through the region.
More than 90 per cent of intensive care beds were full last week in Chile’s capital, Santiago, whose main cemetery dug 1000 emergency graves to prepare for a wave of deaths.
In Lima, Peru, patients took up 80 per cent of intensive care beds as of Friday. Peru has the world’s 12th-highest number of confirmed cases, with more than 90,000.
“We’re in bad shape,” said Pilar Mazzetti, head of the Peruvian government’s COVID-19 taskforce. “This is war.”
In some cities, doctors say patients are dying because of a lack of ventilators or because they can’t get to a hospital fast enough. With intensive care units swamped, officials plan to move patients from capitals like Lima and Santiago to hospitals in smaller cities that aren’t as busy – running the risk of spreading the disease further.