Coronavirus: Brazil’s President Bolsonaro tests positive

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President Jair Bolsonaro speaks with journalists while wearing a protective face mask as he arrives at Alvorada Palace, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Brasilia, Brazil, May 22, 2020

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President Bolsonaro has in the past said that he “won’t be struck down by a little flu”

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro has tested positive for coronavirus.

He took the test, his fourth, on Monday after developing symptoms, including a high temperature.

Mr Bolsonaro has repeatedly played down the risks posed by the virus, calling it “a little flu” and saying that he would not be seriously affected by it.

He has also urged regional governors to ease lockdowns, which he says hurt the economy, and on Monday he watered down regulations on wearing face masks.

Back in April, he said that even if he were to be infected with the virus, he would “not have to worry as I wouldn’t feel anything, at most it would be like a little flue or a little cold”.

When he made the remark, the number of Covid-19-related deaths was still under 3,000 and the number of infections was around 40,000.

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Media captionFrom 21 April 2020: The BBC’s South America correspondent Katy Watson looks at how Bolsonaro has responded to the virus in Brazil

But the numbers have skyrocket since then. As of Monday, the number of deaths was over 65,000 and infections were over 1.6m, second only to the United States.

Despite the rising numbers, President Bolsonaro has argued that regional lockdowns are having a more damaging effect than the virus itself, and accused the media of spreading panic and paranoia.

Jair Bolsonaro on coronavirus:

  • “From what I have seen until now, there are other kinds of flu which have killed more people than that (coronavirus) one” (11 March)
  • “Today we have information, that because we have a more tropical climate (in Brazil) we’ve almost reached the end (of the pandemic), or it’s already over (…) the virus doesn’t spread as fast in warm climates like ours” (18 March)
  • “After being stabbed, I’m not going to be brought down by a little flu” (20 March)

While he was at his most vocal and dismissive in March, he has continued to rail against measures that he deems “dictatorial” such as the closing beaches or requirements to wear face coverings.

On Monday, he made further changes to a law which would require Brazilians to wear masks in public.

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  • How the pandemic turned political in Brazil

He has attended a number of public events without a mask, even when local rules required him to wear one.

On Sunday, Foreign Minister Ernesto Araújo posted a photo on social media showing himself with President Bolsonaro and others attending an Independence Day celebration at the US embassy in Brasilia.

None of those in the photo is wearing a mask or observing social distancing.

The US embassy said that the ambassador had had lunch with Mr Bolsonaro and others on 4 July. It added that the ambassador had no symptoms but that he would undergo testing.

The ambassador had earlier tweeted a picture of himself with President Bolsonaro.

It is not the first time Mr Bolsonaro has been tested for coronavirus. He has had three previous tests, which he says were all negative.