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Brazillian President Jair Bolsonaro has reportedly called on the public to return to work despite the rise of coronavirus cases in the country. “The virus arrived, we are confronting it, and it will pass shortly. Our lives have to continue, jobs should be maintained,” Bolsonaro said on March 23 in a public address.
Bolsonaro has urged mayors and state administration to scale back on lockdowns in major cities such as São Paolo and Rio de Janeiro.
Brazil has reported 2,247 novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV2) cases as of March 25, with 46 deaths.
Many Brazilians who voluntarily went into self-isolation are protesting Bolsonaro’s lack of concern. Millions of Brazilians stood on their balconies and windows in São Paolo and Rio de Janeiro to bang pots and pans, and switched lights on and off to demonstrate their frustration with Bolsonaro’s perceived cavalier attitude towards the global threat.
Bolsonaro reportedly tested negative for the virus on March 13 after his press secretary, Fábio Wajngarten, tested positive following a meeting with US President Donald Trump on March 7.
Opinion polls indicate Bolsonaro losing popularity after his televised address.
The president is accusing the media and his political foes of ‘tricking’ citizens into believing that the coronavirus is deadly. Bolsonaro has also reportedly downplayed the dangers of the virus. “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 little flu,” he said.
Despite calling on congress to free up funding to help ease public healthcare’s handling of virus cases, Bolsonaro has not asked for citizens to quarantine themselves. He has reportedly criticized governors and mayors who had imposed quarantine measures in major cities.
Brazil’s most populous city, São Paolo is currently on a 15-day quarantine, locking down 46 million people. Rio de Janeiro has indefinitely shut down schools and public gatherings, while more drastic measures are in the works to prevent the spread of the virus.
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