Guardian News and Media/Brasilia
The Brazilian President, Jair Bolsonaro, has announced live on television he has tested positive for coronavirus.
“It came back positive,” a mask-wearing Bolsonaro told a hand-picked group of reporters yesterday lunchtime outside his official residence.
“There’s no reason for fear. That’s life,” the president added. “Life goes on. I thank God for my life and the role I’ve been given to decide the future of this great nation that is called Brazil.”
Bolsonaro, 65, has repeatedly trivialised the pandemic and flouted social distancing, even as Brazil became the second-worst-hit country after the US, with more than 65,000 deaths and 1.6mn confirmed cases.
After announcing his positive result yesterday, Bolsonaro stepped back from the reporters he was addressing, removed his mask and, grinning, said: “Just look at my face. I’m well, fine, thank God … Thanks to all those who have been praying for me … and to those who criticise me, no problem, carry on criticising as much as you like.”
Bolsonaro also continued to undermine what he called “overblown” and panic-inducing attempts by Brazilian governors and mayors to slow the spread of the virus through shutdowns and social distancing.
“Some authorities even forbade people from going to the beach,” Bolsonaro complained, before claiming: “The majority of Brazilians contract this virus and don’t notice a thing”.Bolsonaro’s diagnosis comes just three days after he had lunch at the home of the US ambassador to Brazil, Todd Chapman, in the capital, Brasília.
Also present at that Independence Day celebration were several top cabinet members, including the Foreign Minister, Ernesto Araújo, Defence Minister, Fernando Azevedo, and the president’s son, Eduardo, a politician who is Steve Bannon’s representative in South America.
The men were photographed without face masks.
Reports of Bolsonaro’s possible infection first emerged on Monday evening, with local news outlets reporting that he had been tested after developing coronavirus symptoms, including a 38C temperature and a persistent cough.
An MRI of Bolsonaro’s lungs was also taken, with the president telling supporters it had shown them to be “clear”.
The newspaper O Globo said it understood Brazil’s president had started complaining of tiredness on Saturday night, after his lunch with the US ambassador, and continued feeling unwell on Sunday.
Bolsonaro has repeatedly downplayed the risks of Covid-19 and urged Brazil to get back to work to avoid a devastating economic crash but he is now the second member of his family suffering its effects.
The 80-year-old grandmother of Brazil’s first lady, Michelle Bolsonaro, was reportedly intubated on Sunday, after being admitted to hospital with coronavirus last Wednesday.
According to the G1 news website, Maria Aparecida Firmo Ferreira, who is reportedly estranged from the presidential clan, was found collapsed in the street by passersby and taken to a hospital in Ceilândia, a satellite city outside Brasília.
Bolsonaro’s response to the coronavirus has sparked a domestic and international outcry, with many directly blaming him for the high death toll.
Brazil currently lacks a permanent health minister after two were forced from their jobs in less than a month after clashing with Bolsonaro over the pandemic.
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