Brazil's President Bolsonaro tests positive for coronavirus
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — 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.
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