Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro praised his own efforts to deal with the Chinese coronavirus on Wednesday when asked by a television reporter if he had sent out the “wrong message” in his initial skepticism over the pandemic.
“The team is doing well and we are winning by a landslide [goleada, a term meaning many soccer goals],“ Bolsonaro told the Globo journalist when asked if he regretted his initial response. “But it is also thanks to its coach. So, we are going to do justice and praise the coach named Jair Bolsonaro.”
Last Sunday, Bolsonaro sparked condemnation from the Brazilian media after he greeted and shook hands with supporters outside the presidential palace, indicating that he did not see the virus as a genuine threat.
Another journalist asked him, “Do you maintain your assessment that there is hysteria around the coronavirus outbreak?”
“That feeling of hysteria grew after Sunday. My obligation is to anticipate the problems and bring the truth to the Brazilian population,” he explained. “Brazil suffered more serious problems in the past, but they did not carry the repercussions of the current one. It is a serious question, but we cannot enter the field of hysteria and national commotion.”
The 64-year-old also insisted he would continue to interact with the Brazilian people.
“I am the leader of the Brazilian nation and therefore I must be at the forefront with my people,” he said. “Don’t be surprised if next week you see me on a São Paulo subway during rush hour, or on a barge in Rio de Janeiro.”
Last week, Bolsonaro’s skepticism seemed to have backfired amid reports that he had contracted the coronavirus, just days after meeting with President Donald Trump and his advisers. However, they turned out to be incorrect, with Bolsonaro’s son, lawmaker Eduardo Bolsonaro, taking to Twitter to denounce it as “fake news.”
“Too much [sic] lies and little information. Coronavirus exam done with the team that were with [Jair Bolsonaro] in USA have not yet been completed,” he wrote. “There are always those people who tell lies in the media and if the story is confirmed they say, ‘I told you!’, if not will be just 1 more fake news.”
(ENG)Too much lies and little information. Coronavirus exam done with the team that were with JB in USA have not yet been completed
There are always those people who tell lies in the media and if the story is confirmed they say "I told you!", if not will be just 1 more fake news
— Eduardo Bolsonaro🇷 (@BolsonaroSP) March 13, 2020
Countries around the world are now being forced to take extreme measures to contain the spread of the virus, and Brazil is no exception. On Tuesday, health authorities announced the country’s first coronavirus-related death, while over 500 people have now contracted the virus, including two government ministers. Four people have been confirmed dead.
On Thursday, millions of Bolsonaro’s opponents participated in protests across the cities of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro to express their anger at his handling of the pandemic. As they could not take to the streets, participants stepped out onto their balconies, banging pots and calling for the president to step down. Bolsonaro has since said he will ask the Brazilian Congress to declare a “public state of calamity” to help manage the situation.