As the coronavirus continues it’s inexorable spread around the world, South America is becoming one of the worst affected areas and Brazil has the second-worst coronavirus outbreak in the world, behind the US. Bolsonaro has described the virus as a little flu and stating, perhaps with a touch of hubris, that he wouldn’t be seriously affected by it. Now that he has tested positive for coronavirus it seems that his claim will be put to the test.
Despite his repeated underplaying of the serious risks of the virus, several members of the President’s inner circle had caught the virus but the President himself had seemingly escaped contracting it as his three previous tests had come up negative.
The Shock Announcement
Bolsonaro made the announcement during a TV interview, during which he stated that his fever had gone down and that he was now feeling very well.
He stated that he had developed a high temperature and a cough on Sunday and after the symptoms had worsened on Monday he took his fourth test and the result had come back positive.
CNN Brasil had reported Monday that Bolsonaro had a fever, but the President’s office had strenuously denied but today decided to come clean and had told his supporters today that he had a fever, fatigue, and muscle pain before his test. He added that a scan of his lungs showed they were “clean.”
He also bolstered his label as the Trump of the South by announcing that he was taking a course of hydroxychloroquine – the anti-malarial drug championed by US President Donald Trump – and azithromycin (an antibiotic normally used to treat bacterial infections) to treat the illness.
Back in April, Mr Bolsonaro said that even if he were to be infected with the virus, he would “not have to worry as I wouldn’t feel anything, at most it would be like a little flu or a little cold”.
When he made the remark, the number of Covid-19-related deaths in Brazil had yet to reach 3,000 and the number of infections in the country was around 40,000.
The Pandemic In Brazil
However since then the number of deaths has skyrocketed to over 65,000 and the number of positive cases has risen to more than 1.6 million, a number only surpassed by the USA.
Even though the course of the pandemic in Brazil has closely followed the predictions of health experts, Bolsonaro has repeatedly tried to downplay the risks and has railed against the regional lockdowns imposed by the State Governors, arguing that their effects are worse than the virus itself. On Monday, even when feeling the effects of the infection, he watered down the regulations on wearing facemasks.
Like President Trump, he has attended a number of public events without a mask, even when local rules required him to wear one.
On Sunday, Foreign Minister Ernesto Araújo posted a photo to social media showing himself with President Bolsonaro and others attending an Independence Day celebration at the US embassy in Brasilia.
None of those in the photo is observing social distancing or wearing a mask.
The US embassy confirmed that the ambassador had hosted lunch for Mr Bolsonaro and others on 4 July. It added that the ambassador had no symptoms but that he would undergo testing. The ambassador had earlier tweeted a picture of himself with President Bolsonaro.
The executive director of the World Health Organization, Dr Mike Ryan, was one of the first to wish the President “a speedy and full recovery from this disease”, adding: “I think the message to us all is: we are vulnerable to this virus.”
Mr Bolsonaro is in a higher-risk group because of his age, 65.
Bolsonaro’s Previous Statements on Coronavirus
- “From what I have seen until now, there are other kinds of flu which have killed more people than that [coronavirus] one” (11 March)
- “Today we have information, that because we have a more tropical climate [in Brazil] we’ve almost reached the end [of the pandemic], or it’s already over (…) the virus doesn’t spread as fast in warm climates like ours” (18 March)
- “After being stabbed, I’m not going to be brought down by a little flu” (20 March)