Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro tested positive for Chinese coronavirus infection on Tuesday, according to a statement from his communications ministry.
The test was performed on Monday night after Bolsonaro said he was feeling “unwell.” According to the official statement, Bolsonaro remains in generally “good health” and has not been hospitalized as of Tuesday morning.
Bolsonaro himself gave a television interview on Tuesday in which he said his test “came back positive” and an MRI of his lungs showed them to be “clear” of fluid.
“Bolsonaro, 65, has repeatedly trivialized the pandemic and flouted social distancing, even as Brazil became the second-worst hit country after the United States, with more than 65,000 deaths and 1.6 million confirmed cases,” the UK Guardian recalled in a characteristic report about the irony, or ironic microbial justice, of the tough-talking Brazilian president contracting the disease.
The Guardian suggested Bolsonaro might have contracted the coronavirus three days ago after having lunch at the Brasilia home of U.S. Ambassador Todd Chapman.
“Also present at that Independence Day celebration were several top cabinet members, including foreign minister Ernesto Araújo, defence minister Fernando Azevedo, and the president’s son, Eduardo, a politician who is Steve Bannon’s representative in South America. The men were photographed without face masks,” the report noted.
Another of Bolsonaro’s sons, Carlos, lashed out on Monday night against “the immense number of people rooting for the death of the head of the executive right now” and called for an “immediate show of solidarity from other leaders.”
Speculation about Bolsonaro’s health was rampant after he began complaining of exhaustion on Sunday and showing possible symptoms of the disease.
On Monday, he told supporters he had “done a lung screening” in addition to a Chinese coronavirus exam. He said his lung was “clean” and “everything is okay,” while sporting a mask and advising supporters not to “get very close.”
In the past, Bolsonaro has generally disdained masks and gotten quite close to his supporters at rallies. Last week, he partially vetoed a mandatory mask law passed by the Brazilian legislature, arguing against “scorched earth” preventive measures that would unnecessarily delay Brazil’s “return to normality.”
Bolsonaro has said he was not worried even if he contracted the coronavirus, despite his age putting him in a high-risk category, because his background as an athlete made him strong enough to defeat the disease.
“In the worst case, I would have a little cold,” he boasted in March.
In his remarks on Tuesday, Bolsonaro said he is taking azithromycin and hydroxychloroquine, the malaria drug U.S. President Donald Trump has recommended as a possible treatment for symptoms of the coronavirus. A study by the Henry Ford Health System in Michigan recently found that hydroxychloroquine can reduce the chances of death from the coronavirus, a finding applauded by the White House after a long battle with American media outlets over the effectiveness of the treatment.