President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil, who has consistently dismissed the threat posed by the novel coronavirus and encouraged residents to flout social distancing measures, announced Tuesday that he has been diagnosed with COVID-19.
The 65-year-old populist announced his test results during a television interview in the country’s capitol, Brasilia, according to The Associated Press. He told reporters he had begun to develop COVID-19 symptoms over the weekend and that he went to a doctor Monday after his condition worsened.
“I’m, well, normal. I even want to take a walk around here, but I can’t due to medical recommendations,” Bolsonaro said, according to the AP. “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.”
The Brazilian president tested negative for COVID-19 in March after several of his aides contracted the viral infection following a visit to President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, Reuters reported.
He added Tuesday that he’s been taking the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine to treat his illness, though the drug has no proven positive effect on COVID-19 patients.
Despite his diagnosis, Bolsonaro on Tuesday continued to downplay the threat of the virus, which has infected more than 11.6 million people and killed over 539,000 worldwide, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Echoing comments previously made by President Donald Trump, Bolsonaro emphasized the impact virus-mandated business closures could have on the population’s well-being and framed his diagnosis as inevitable.
“Everyone knew that sooner or later it would affect a good part of the population,” he said, according to Bloomberg News. “Life continues. But if the economy doesn’t work it will bring new forms of death and suicide.”
Public health experts have criticized Bolsonaro’s approach to dealing with the coronavirus, which he described as a “little flu” in March. He’s urged Brazilians to ignore local orders for residents to self-isolate or for businesses to close and has pushed to keep the country’s economy open, The Washington Post reported.
Bolsonaro fired his health minister over a disagreement about the need for isolation to curb the spread of the coronavirus, according to the Post. He pushed out his next health minister, who was skeptical about using hydroxychloroquine to treat coronavirus patients, the newspaper reported. Since then, Bolsonaro has installed a military official who is not a doctor to serve as his health minister, according to the Post.
Brazil has the second-worst coronavirus outbreak in the world behind the United States with more than 1.6 million people infected, according to information compiled by Johns Hopkins University. More than 65,000 people have died nationwide due to the viral infection.
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