Brazil: Coronavirus-Positive Bolsonaro Takes Motorcycle Ride, Greets Workers Without Mask

Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro greets supporters upon arrival at Planalto Palace in Brasilia, on May 24, 2020, amid the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. - Despite positive signs elsewhere, the disease continued its surge in large parts of South America, with the death toll in Brazil passing 22,000 and infections topping 347,000, …
EVARISTO SA/AFP via Getty Images

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who tested positive for Chinese coronavirus a third time this week, took his motorcycle for a ride on Thursday outside his official residence in Brasilia, talking with garbage collectors without a mask, according to photographs circulating on social media.

A Reuters journalist photographed Bolsonaro, 65, talking to workers from his motorcycle outside the Planalto Palace grounds without a helmet or mask.

In another photo, he is seen wearing a helmet with the visor raised and talking with the sweepers who are also not wearing masks.

“The Palace will not comment on this matter,” said Bolsonaro’s communications secretary when Agence France-Presse (AFP) asked about the incident.

Bolsonaro tested positive for the coronavirus for the first time on July 7 after reports surfaced that he had been feeling unwell. Having played down the severity of the virus, describing it as just a “little flu,” he came out the following day insisting that, to his opponents’ disappointment, he was feeling “very well” having taken the drug hydroxychloroquine.

Traditionally used to treat malaria, the drug has been the subject of intense debate among politicians and the scientific community as to whether it can serve as an effective treatment for coronavirus. Both Bolsonaro and President Donald Trump are among those to repeatedly tout its potential. A study published in Brazil this week concluded that the drug — typically paired alongside the antibiotic azithromycin — is not effective in mild and moderate cases. The study did not test severe cases of Chinese coronavirus.

“To those who cheer against hydroxychloroquine, but do not present alternatives, I regret to inform you that I am very well with its use and, with the grace of God, I will live for a long time to come,” Bolsonaro wrote at the time alongside a photo appearing to enjoy a coffee or tea.

After a reported alleviation of his symptoms, Bolsonaro took another coronavirus test on Wednesday and again tested positive. His office consequently announced that he would extend his two-week quarantine and suspend all his upcoming travel plans.

“President Jair Bolsonaro’s health continues to improve, under the treatment of the presidential medical team,” his office said in a statement. “A (new coronavirus) test carried out yesterday on the president came back positive.”

Speaking to his supporters in a Facebook video update on Thursday, Bolsonaro once again described himself as feeling “very well” but a “little overwhelmed from being locked in a room.” He also reiterated his opposition to regional lockdowns, pointing out the devastating impact of forcing people into quarantine.

“We are concerned about lives, but the collateral effect of that [quarantine] policy is going to kill many more people than the virus,” he declared.

Brazil remains one of the world’s coronavirus hotspots, surpassed only by the United States in official estimates, having confirmed over 2.3 million cases and more than 84,000 deaths. Its population of nearly 210 million people means that such figures are roughly in line with neighboring countries including Colombia and Brazil, who have recorded around 226,000 and 371,000 cases respectively. Its official status also does not reflect the many reports that rogue states like China, Iran, and Russia have significantly undercounted their coronavirus cases.

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