Brazil’s President tests positive for COVID-19

July 07, 2020
In this May 26, 2020 file photo, Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro, wearing a face mask with a logo of the Federal Police, leaves his official residence of Alvorada Palace in Brasilia, Brazil. Bolsonaro won the presidency in 2018 with a campaign that emphasized law and order, and said police should be able to kill criminals with almost no legal constraints in order to curb homicides. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres, FIle)

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro said Tuesday he has tested positive for COVID-19 after months of downplaying the coronavirus’s severity while deaths mounted rapidly inside the country.

The 65-year-old 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 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. 

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.

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.

Bolsonaro repeated those sentiments Tuesday, likening the virus to a rain that will fall on most people and saying that some, like older people, 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.

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.”

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