A federal judge in Brazil ordered President Jair Bolsonaro to wear a sanitary mask in public or face a fine of 2,000 reais ($390) after the leader repeatedly defied a decree in the federal capital, Brasilia, requiring people to wear a mask in public to curb the spread of coronavirus, Deutsche Welle reported on Tuesday.
“The president has a constitutional obligation to follow the laws in force in the country, as well as to promote the general welfare of the people, which means taking the necessary measures to protect citizens’ right to health,” Judge Renato Borelli wrote in his ruling Monday, which also applies to the president’s cabinet and staff.
According to São Paulo-based news magazine Veja, the case was brought by a Brazilian human rights lawyer named Victor Mendonça Neiva, who has a history of work “related to the occupational health of [public] workers.” Neiva reportedly said that Bolsonaro should be held accountable for his “irresponsible behavior” in refusing to wear a mask in public, which possibly threatens the health of other people he comes into contact with.
According to the report, Brasilia passed a mandate in April requiring all people in the federal district to wear a sanitary mask while in public. The measure was part of the federal government’s ongoing efforts to reduce transmission of the Chinese coronavirus, which has ravaged Brazil. The country now has the second-highest coronavirus death toll in the world after the U.S. with 52,645 deaths recorded so far.
In his ruling, Borelli cited photos circulating on the internet of the president regularly flouting Brasilia’s mask mandate and social distancing measures, including images of him shaking peoples’ hands and giving hugs at political rallies attended by his supporters, all while not wearing a mask.
Last week, the president’s former education minister, Abraham Weintraub, was fined 2,000 Brazilian reais after he attended a pro-Bolsonaro rally in Brasilia sans mask.
According to Agence France-Presse, recent images show Bolsonaro without a mask as he hosts barbecues, visits the shooting range, and generally goes about his life in public during the pandemic. The president famously dismissed the Chinese coronavirus as “little flu,” and has consistently downplayed the threat of the deadly virus.