Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro once again blasted the global “hysteria” over the Chinese coronavirus in a public address Tuesday, urging his people to get back to normal life and work as soon as they possibly can.
In an address to the nation, Bolsonaro called on local authorities such as mayors and state governors to start rolling back lockdown measures that have shut down schools and brought many of the country’s big cities to complete standstill.
“Our lives have to go on. Jobs must be kept … we must, yes, get back to normal,” Bolsonaro said. “A small number of state and municipal authorities must abandon their scorched-earth ideas: the banning of public transport, the closing of commerce, and mass confinement.”
“What is happening around the world has shown that the at-risk group are those aged 60 or over. So why close schools?” he continued. “90 percent of us will show no symptoms if we are infected.”
Unable to take to the streets due to lockdown, opponents of Bolsonaro vented their fury at what they claimed was a cavalier attitude towards the virus by banging pots and pans from their balconies.
Citing his history as an athlete, the former army captain also insisted that he would “feel nothing” if he were infected with the coronavirus.
“In my particular case, with my history as an athlete, 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 small flu,” he said.
In a video-conference held on Wednesday morning between the president and state officials, Bolsonaro clashed with São Paulo governor João Doria, who has enforced a 15-day quarantine period affecting about 46 million in the country’s most populous and important financial state.
In the exchange, Doria pledged to pursue “legal action” if necessary.
“We have 40 deaths in our state,” he said. “These aren’t fake deaths, Mr. President. This is not just a ‘little flu.'”
According to the latest figures, Brazil has so far recorded 2,201 cases of the coronavirus and 46 deaths, most of which are in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Despite its population of around 200 million, the figures place Brazil relatively ahead of most Latin American countries.
Bolsonaro, who recently tested negative for the coronavirus following false reports that he had tested positive, is now proposing a “vertical” approach to isolation, that will require the elderly and those with prior health conditions to self-quarantine. Reports in Brazilian media suggest that his Health Minister Dr. Luiz Henrique Mandetta may resign in protest.
Bolsonaro insisted last week that his country was “winning” the fight against the coronavirus thanks to his leadership.
“The team is doing well and we are winning by a landslide [goleada, a term meaning many soccer goals],” he told an O Globo journalist when asked whether 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.”