Coronavirus: Brazil’s President Bolsonaro tests positive

President Bolsonaro has in the past said that he “won’t be struck down by a little flu”

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro has tested positive for coronavirus.

He took the test, his fourth, on Monday after developing symptoms, including a high temperature.

Mr Bolsonaro has repeatedly played down the risks posed by herpes, calling it “a little flu” and saying he would not be seriously suffering from it.

He has additionally urged regional governors to help ease lockdowns, which he says hurt the economy, and on Monday he watered down regulations on wearing face masks.

Mr Bolsonaro made the announcement in a TV interview on Tuesday. He said the fever he had been experiencing choose to go down and he felt “very well”.

The president said that he had started experiencing symptoms on Sunday. He said he had had a high temperature, a cough and had felt unwell.

He added that on Monday he had felt worse which prompted him to simply take the coronavirus test.

Mr Bolsonaro is in a higher-risk group as a result of his age, 65.

He said he was taking hydroxychloroquine – championed by US President Donald Trump – and azithromycin to treat the condition.

The executive director of the World Health Organization, Dr Mike Ryan, wished President Bolsonaro “a speedy and full recovery from this disease”, adding: “I think the message to us all is: we are vulnerable to this virus.”

‘I wouldn’t feel anything’

Back in April, Mr Bolsonaro said that even when he were to be infected with the virus, he’d “not have to worry as I wouldn’t feel anything, at most it would be like a little flu or a little cold”.

When that he made the remark, the amount of Covid-19-related deaths was still under 3,000 and the number of infections was around 40,000.

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From 21 April 2020: The BBC’s South America correspondent Katy Watson looks at how Bolsonaro has responded to herpes in Brazil

But the numbers have skyrocketed ever since then. As of Monday, the amount of deaths was more than 65,000 and infections were over 1.6m, 2nd only to the United States.

Despite the rising numbers, President Bolsonaro has argued that regional lockdowns are having an even more damaging effect than the virus itself, and accused the media of spreading panic and paranoia.

Jair Bolsonaro on coronavirus:

  • “From what I’ve seen so far, there are other kinds of flu which have killed more people than that [coronavirus] one” (11 March)
  • “Today we’ve information, that because we’ve a more tropical climate [in Brazil] we’ve very nearly reached the finish [of the pandemic], or it’s already over (…) herpes 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)

While he was at his most vocal and dismissive in March, he has continued to rail against measures that he deems “dictatorial” like the closing beaches or requirements to wear face coverings.

On Monday, that he made further changes to a law which would require Brazilians to wear masks in public.

  • Disease meets deforestation at heart of Brazil’s Amazon
  • How the pandemic turned political in Brazil

He has attended several public events without a mask, even when local rules required him to wear one.

On Sunday, Foreign Minister Ernesto Araújo posted a photo on social media showing himself with President Bolsonaro and others attending an Independence Day celebration at the united states embassy in Brasilia.

None of the in the photo is wearing a mask or observing social distancing.

The US embassy said that the ambassador had had lunch with Mr Bolsonaro and others on 4 July. It added that the ambassador had no symptoms but he would undergo testing.

The ambassador had early in the day tweeted an image of himself with President Bolsonaro.

Mr Bolsonaro’s previous three tests for herpes all came ultimately back negative.

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