Coronavirus: Leader of pandemic-hit country getting tested after calling virus 'little flu'

Tom Flanagan
·News Reporter
·3-min read

He previously described the coronavirus pandemic as simply a “little flu”.

And despite more than 65,000 fatalities from the virus in Brazil, the second highest death toll in the world, President Jair Bolsonaro remains adamant the nation must ease out of restrictions to save the nation’s economy.

"We're all going to die some day,’ he reminded Brazilians in March.

In an ironic twist on Monday, local media in Brazil reported the controversial leader, whose lax response is seen by millions as being responsible for its 1.57 million cases, had begun to display coronavirus symptoms.

Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro arrives to a press conference to speak on the resignation of Justice Minister Sergio Moro, at the Planalto Presidential Palace in Brasilia, Brazil, Friday, April 24, 2020. Moro, who became popular as a crusader against corruption, resigned on Friday, alleging political interference in the federal police force. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro has reportedly shown coronavirus symptoms. Source: AP

Mr Bolsonaro, 65, said he had an elevated temperature of 38 degrees Celsius and a 96 per cent oxygen rate in his blood, CNN reported. He said he was taking hydroxychloroquine.

Speaking outside the presidential palace, Mr Bolsonaro confirmed he had been to hospital for testing.

He insisted however his lungs were “clean”.

Mr Bolsonaro has regularly flouted social distancing guidelines advised by most health experts, shaking hands and embracing supporters. He has said publicly that his past as an athlete makes him immune to the worst symptoms of the virus.

On Friday, he vetoed parts of a law that would have made wearing a face mask obligatory in enclosed spaces where large groups gather - such as churches and schools.

Coronavirus deaths continue to steadily rise in Brazil. Source: Worldometers
Coronavirus deaths continue to steadily rise in Brazil. Source: Worldometers

Brazil is still routinely recording more than 1000 deaths daily, a worrying trend that has occurred since mid May.

The death toll does however drop below that figure when numbers of new cases are reported on weekend days, raising questions over the collation of data on those days.

Restrictions continue to ease despite rising death toll

Mr Bolsonaro has pressured governors and mayors for months to reverse lockdown measures and reopen the economy, and this month appears to finally have his wish granted.

In similar scenes witnessed in London over the weekend, crowds gathered to drink on the sidewalk of an upscale beachside neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro last week, the first evening bars in the city were allowed to reopen.

Pictures of the revelry in Leblon, where few were wearing face masks and people were huddled close together, went viral on social media drawing condemnation and concern.

"A tragedy foretold," David Miranda, a federal congressman for Rio, wrote on Twitter above a picture of the crowded sidewalk. He criticised the city's mayor Marcelo Crivella.

"Crivella's decision to throw open the doors of business will come with a high cost," he added.

In an emailed statement, Crivella's office said local law enforcement had asked several establishments to close on Thursday as public health rules prohibit the gathering of crowds drinking outside bars.

In Rio alone, more than 6,600 people have died of COVID-19 in the past four months.

Only 14 countries in the world have a death toll higher than the city. Intensive care units in public hospitals are at 70 per cent capacity.

Sao Paulo, Brazil's largest and worst hit city, is expected to open bars and restaurants this week.

with Reuters

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