BRASILIA – Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro on Tuesday announced live on television that he has tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
“It came back positive,” Bolsonaro told a hand-picked group of reporters on Tuesday outside his official residence.
“There’s no reason for fear. That’s life,” added the 65-year-old president, who showed the symptoms associated with the COVID-19 respiratory disease, including a fever.
“Life goes on. I thank God for my life and the role I’ve been given to decide the future of this great nation that is called Brazil.”
On Monday, Bolsonaro told supporters outside the presidential palace that he had just visited the hospital and been tested for the virus, adding that an exam had shown his lungs were “clean.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) has wished to him a speedy recovery from COVID-19, expressing the belief that the case highlights collective vulnerability, and stressing the need for humanity to “stand in unison.”
“We wish him very well. We wish him a speedy and full recovery from this disease. Other leaders around the world have had similar experiences. I think it brings home for us all the reality of this virus. We are all potentially exposed to this virus, it doesn’t know who we are, whether we are prince or pauper. It highlights our collective vulnerability,” WHO Health Emergencies Programme Executive Director Michael Ryan told a virtual briefing.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, in turn, expressed hope that Bolsonaro’s symptoms would be mild and he would be “back to office as soon as possible to support his country.”
Bolsonaro has repeatedly played down the impact of the virus, even as Brazil has suffered one of the world’s worst outbreaks, with more than 1.6 million confirmed cases and 66,093 related deaths, according to official data till publishing of this report.
The right-wing populist has often defied local guidelines to wear a mask in public, even after a judge ordered him to do so in late June. On Monday, the far-right leader made more changes to weaken a law requiring that face masks be worn in public places in order to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
He had already watered down the Bill on Friday by vetoing several articles, including ones requiring employers to supply face masks for their staff and another mandating that public authorities should provide face coverings for “economically vulnerable people”.
Now he has also vetoed articles requiring masks be worn in prisons and another obliging businesses to provide information on how to wear masks properly. Some states have already made the wearing of masks mandatory, but this was the first such law on a national level.
Over the weekend, Bolsonaro attended multiple events and was in close contact with the U.S. ambassador to Brazil during Jul 4 celebrations. Bolsonaro previously tested negative for the coronavirus after several aides were diagnosed following a visit to US President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in March.