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Brazil's health minister urges maximum social distancing

Brazil's Minister of Health Luiz Henrique Mandetta reacts during a news conference amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Brasilia, Brazil, March 30, 2020. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazilians should maintain maximum social distancing right now to help ease the strain on the health system caused by the coronavirus epidemic, Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta said on Monday, adding that churches can open but not hold congregations.

Mandetta, often at odds with President Jair Bolsonaro over how to tackle the crisis, said as long as he is in his post he will take a scientific and technical approach to his work.

Bolsonaro has played down the gravity of the epidemic and criticized lockdown measures by state and city authorities.

Reporting by Ricardo Britto; Writing by Jamie McGeever; Editing by Chris Reese