BRAZIL’S president Jair Bolsonaro has tested positive for coronavirus – but later took his mask off and said he felt “perfectly well”.
The right-wing populist, who previously dismissed coronavirus as a “little flu,” took the test yesterday after developing symptoms.
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Bolsonaro, who at 65 is classed as within an at risk group, told reporters he felt “well, normal” and took off his mask.
“I even want to take a walk around here, but I can’t due to medical recommendations,” he said.
He said he began feeling ill on Sunday and has been taking hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug with unproven effectiveness against Covid-19.
Earlier Bolsonaro, who has repeatedly downplayed the risks of the coronavirus, told supporters outside the presidential residence in capital Brasilia that he is feeling well.
More than 65,000 Brazilians have so far died from Covid-19 and more than 1,500,000 have been infected.
Both numbers are the world’s second-highest totals, and are considered to be undercounts to the lack of widespread testing.
The president has often appeared in public to shake hands with supporters and mingle with crowds, at times without a mask.
In March Bolsonaro has claimed that “as an athlete” he would have “nothing to worry about” were he to contract the coronavirus as he pushed back against lockdown measures.
Bolsonaro, who was spotted coughing at an anti-lockdown rally, claims he would “feel nothing” if he caught the virus.
Speaking on TV Brazil he said: “In my particular case, with my athletic history, if I were infected with the virus, I would have no reason to worry.
“I would feel nothing, or it would be at most just a little flu or a little cold.
“The side effect of fighting the coronavirus, cannot, in my view, be more harmful than the medicine itself.”
In my particular case, with my athletic history, if I were infected with the virus, I would have no reason to worry
He has also repeatedly said that there is no way to prevent 70 per cent of the population falling ill with Covid-19, and that local authorities’ measures to shut down economic activity would ultimately cause more hardship than allowing the virus to run its course.
Cities and states last month began lifting restrictions that had been imposed to control the spread of the virus, as their statistical curves of deaths began to decline along with the occupation rate of its intensive-care units.
Brazil, the world’s sixth most populous nation, with more than 210 million people, is one of the global hot spots of the pandemic.
Yesterday Bolsonaro told supporters in Brasilia that he underwent an X-ray of his lungs that showed they were clean, and that he would be tested for COVID-19. On Tuesday, he told CNN Brasil that his fever had subsided.
Over the weekend, the Brazilian leader celebrated the U.S. Independence Day with the nation’s ambassador to Brazil, then shared pictures on social media showing him with his arm around the ambassador alongside several ministers and aides.
None wore masks, despite being in close quarters.
Bolsonaro tested negative three times in March after meeting with the U.S. President Donald Trump in Florida.
Multiple members of his delegation to the U.S. were later reported to be infected with the virus.