Brazil’s President Bolsonaro tests positive for coronavirus

Brazil’s President Bolsonaro tests positive for coronavirus

RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro said Tuesday he has tested positive for the new coronavirus after months of downplaying its severity while deaths mounted rapidly inside the country.

The 65-year-old right-wing populist who has been known to mingle in crowds without covering his face confirmed the results while wearing a mask and speaking to reporters huddled close in front of him in the capital, Brasilia.

He said he is taking hydroxychloroquine, the anti-malaria drug that he, like President Donald Trump, has been promoting even though it has not been proven effective against COVID-19.

“I’m, well, normal. I even want to take a walk around here, but I can’t due to medical recommendations,” Bolsonaro said. “I thought I had it before, given my very dynamic activity. I’m president and on the combat lines. I like to be in the middle of the people.”

Brazil, the world’s sixth-biggest nation, with more than 210 million people, is one of the outbreak’s most lethal hot spots. More than 65,000 Brazilians have died from COVID-19, and over 1.5 million have been infected.

Both numbers are the world’s second-highest totals, behind those of the U.S., though the true figures are believed to be higher because of a lack of widespread testing. On Tuesday alone, 1,254 deaths were confirmed.

Other world leaders who have had bouts with COVID-19 include British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Britain’s Prince Charles, Prince Albert II of Monaco and Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández.

Bolsonaro is “the democratic leader who has most denied the seriousness of this pandemic,” said Maurício Santoro, a political science professor at the State University of Rio de Janeiro. “Him getting infected is a blow to his credibility. It will be seen as another example of the failure of his coronavirus response.”

Bolsonaro has often appeared in public to shake hands with supporters and mingle with crowds, at times without a mask. He has said that his history as an athlete would protect him from the virus and that it would be nothing more than a “little flu” if he were to contract it.

He has also repeatedly said that there is no way to prevent 70% of the population falling ill with COVID-19 and that local authorities’ efforts to shut down economic activity would ultimately cause more hardship than allowing the virus to run its course.

For nearly two months, Brazil’s fight against COVID-19 has been in the hands of an interim health minister with no health experience before April. He took over after his predecessor, a doctor and health care consultant, quit in protest over Bolsonaro’s support for hydroxychloroquine.

Bolsonaro on Tuesday likened the virus to a rain that will fall on most people and said that some, like the elderly, must take greater care.

“You can’t just talk about the consequences of the virus that you have to worry about. Life goes on. Brazil needs to produce. You need to get the economy in gear,? he said.

Brazilian cities and states last month began lifting restrictions that had been imposed to control the spread of the virus, as deaths began to decline along with the caseload in intensive care units.

Bolsonaro supporter Silas Ribeiro said on the streets of Rio that the president is correct in saying the dangers of the virus have been exaggerated.

“Our president is a popular man. He is showing that he isn’t afraid to die,” said Ribeiro, 59. “He is going to have health and get through this sickness.”

Speaking near recently reopened shops in Rio, Wesley Morielo said he hopes Bolsonaro’s sickness prompts him to reassess his stance.

“I think everything he said before, of not giving importance to COVID-19, came back against him,? said Morielo, a 24-year-old student.

The World Health Organization’s emergencies chief, Dr. Michael Ryan, wished Bolsonaro a speedy recovery and said his infection “brings home the reality of this virus” by showing that it doesn’t distinguish between “prince or pauper.”

The president told reporters he underwent a lung X-ray on Monday after experiencing fever, muscle aches and malaise. As of Tuesday, his fever had subsided, he said, and he attributed the improvement to hydroxychloroquine.

He stepped back from the journalists and removed his mask at one point to show that he looks well.

Brazil’s benchmark Ibovespa stock index fell after Bolsonaro’s announcement, and closed 1.2% down on the day.

Bolsonaro has repeatedly visited the hospital since taking office, requiring several operations to repair his intestines after he was stabbed on the campaign trail in 2018.

He said on Tuesday that he cancelled a trip this week to the country’s northeast region and will continue working via videoconference and receive rare visitors when he needs to sign a document.

Unlike Britain’s prime minister, who moderated his rhetoric after testing positive for the virus, Bolsonaro will probably not change his stance, said Leandro Consentino, a political science professor at Insper, a university in Sao Paulo.

“He’s going down a path of trying to indicate to his base of support that COVID-19 is just a little flu and take advantage of the illness to advertise for chloroquine,” Consentino said.

On Tuesday afternoon, Bolsonaro posted a video to Facebook of him taking his dose of hydroxychloroquine. “I trust hydroxychloroquine. What do you think?” he said while laughing.

Over the weekend, the Brazilian leader celebrated American Independence Day with the U.S. ambassador to Brazil, then shared pictures on social media showing him in close quarters with the diplomat, several ministers and aides. None wore masks.

The U.S. Embassy said on Twitter that Ambassador Todd Chapman is not showing any symptoms but would be tested.

Bolsonaro tested negative three times in March after meeting with the Trump in Florida. Members of his delegation to the U.S. were later reported to be infected.

___

AP video producer Diarlei Rodrigues contributed to this report from Rio.

Marcelo De Sousa And David Biller, The Associated Press

Brazil

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Just Posted

New Urban Hen Bylaw presented to Eckville council

The bylaw received its first reading from council at the regular meeting on Aug. 10

‘Is this a town garden?’ Sylvan Lake resident has been gardening for 7 decades

Most summer days, Joel McCutcheon is in his garden pulling weeds, tending flowers and mowing

Witnesses to doctor attack will likely suffer trauma: RCMP

Supt. Gerald Grobmeier held a news conference last night but wouldn’t confirm details.

Red Deer doctor killed at clinic

Red Deer RCMP are investigating the death of a doctor at the Village Mall Walk-In Clinic.

Charges likely in fatal attack at central Alberta medical clinic: RCMP

A vigil was held Monday night to mourn the victim

Donations pour in for family of doctor killed in Red Deer attack

Man has been charged in connection to death of Red Deer doctor

Man, 54, charged in connection with fatal attack of Red Deer doctor

Doctor was killed in his walk-in clinic on Monday

Vigil held in Maskwacis for 10-year-old boy

Samson Cree Nation comes together for comfort, console each other

Cuts to environmental monitoring budget In Alberta’s oilsands are viewed as reckless

The 2019-2020 budget saw $58 million dollars being dedicated to environmental monitoring

Over half of Americans oppose Trump tariff on Canadian aluminum: survey

The survey was conducted Aug. 7 to 9 among 1,513 Canadians and 1,003 Americans

Police investigating after insults, expletives yelled at federal minister’s staff

A 90-second video circulating on social media appears to have been shot by the person who was yelling

Rent-relief program becomes new front in fight between Liberals, opposition

Opposition trying to draw parallels between decision to have Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. run program and the WE controversy

Ottawa sets minimum unemployment rate at 13.1% for EI calculation

Statistics Canada says the unemployment rate was 10.9 per cent in July

Most Read