Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro has said in an interview that his latest coronavirus test came back positive. The leader's often cavalier attitude to the virus in recent weeks had already raised eyebrows.
Jair Bolsonaro told reporters in Brasilia on Tuesday that he had tested positive for the novel coronavirus, after saying that he had experienced COVID-like symptoms on Monday and would submit for a test.
Bolsonaro confirmed the test results while wearing a mask.
"I am well, I feel normal. In comparison to yesterday, I am very well. I am even in the mood for a walk, but I won't due to medical recommendations, but I am very well," he said, repeating that he was feeling "perfectly well" and had only mild symptoms.
The Brazilian president also said he had an X-ray and that his lungs "were beautiful." Bolsonaro had already informed supporters that he had a fever of 38 degrees and was aching, so had decided to take a COVID-19 test.
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Bolsonaro said he had felt tired but that during the night, his temperature started to subside and that he was feeling in better shape again on Tuesday.
"Life goes on. We're going to take care, particularly of old people and those with illnesses that are a risk factor," he added before reiterating his mantra that the "collateral effects" of the coronavirus should not be worse than the disease itself.
The right-wing populist leader has stirred nationwide controversy for repeatedly flouting containment measures and social distancing rules, such as refusing at times to wear a face mask in public, and defying lockdowns.
WHO wishes Bolsonaro 'speedy recovery'
Bolsonaro is 65-years-old, putting him at the very bottom end of the age range considered by medical experts as a higher risk group.
World Health Organization Executive Director Mike Ryan said the agency wished Bolsonaro a "full and speedy recovery."
The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) directors also wished Bolsonaro a rapid recovery.
"The message is that this virus in unpredictable and does not respect race, class or people in power, despite security around any president," said PAHO director for communicable diseases Marcos Espinal. In reality, Bolsonaro's hectic schedule and frequent public appointments arguably put him more at risk than a typical Brazilian individual, not less.
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Bolsonaro said that he would work from the official presidential residence in Brasilia, Alvorado Palace, in the next few days, communicating via video conferences. Assistants would sign documents on his behalf if necessary.
The president said he had also cleared his schedule for the week, canceling planned trips to the states of Bahia and Minas Gerais.
Since the beginning of the outbreak, Bolsonaro has often talked down the risks of the virus, which has killed 65,000 people in Brazil and infected 1.6 million. He initially called it "a little flu." He has often appeared in public to shake hands with supporters and mingle with crowds, often without a face mask and often at protests against the restrictions imposed by regional governors in Brazil. A court ordered him last month to wear a face mask in public.
Brazil’s Health Ministry is currently headed by interim chief Army General Eduardo Pazuello, after Bolsonaro fired his first minister and a second resigned. The president had often clashed with his health minister and state governors over quarantine measures and possible treatments.
Bolsonaro mingles with US embassy
On Thursday, the president could be seen coughing during a broadcast on his social networks, when he sat next to six other people including Regional Development Minister Rogerio Marinho and the chief executive officer of state-owned bank Caixa Economica Federal, Pedro Guimaraes. None of them wore a mask.
Since then, Bolsonaro has interacted with a number of administration ministers as well as the general public.
On Saturday, the president lunched with the US ambassador to Brazil to commemorate July 4. Pictures showed neither wearing a mask. Bolsonaro's son and Deputy Eduardo Bolsonaro, as well as five ministers, were also present at the private lunch.
"The ambassador does not present any symptoms, but is taking precautions, will do the tests and will follow the protocols of screening," the US Embassy in Brazil tweeted.
It is not the first time Bolsonaro has been tested for COVID-19. In March, after members of his delegation on a trip to the US contracted the virus, Bolsonaro said he tested negative.
On June 25, he said during a Facebook live broadcast that he believed he had already been infected with the virus.
Bolsonaro has also said in the past that his background as an athlete would safeguard him from the coronavirus. The former paratrooper's degree, from 1983, was in physical education at a military college.
mvb/msh (Lusa, AFP, dpa, AP)