Brazil president Jair Bolsonaro tests positive for coronavirus

Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro arrives for a press conference in Brasilia. AFP. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

BRASILIA, Jul 7, 2020, CNBC. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro tested positive for the coronavirus Tuesday, shortly after the presidential palace said he had been displaying symptoms associated with the disease, CNBC reported.

Bolsonaro announced his diagnosis to journalists, saying he had begun feeling ill on Sunday, multiple outlets reported.

The president reportedly also confirmed that he is taking hydroxychloroquine, a malaria drug touted by President Donald Trump as a possible preventive treatment for the disease, as well as azithromycin. Neither drug has been proven to be an effective prophylactic for Covid-19.

The right-wing leader, 65, has consistently downplayed the threat of the virus in recent months, describing it as nothing more than “a little flu.” He also suggested that his past as an athlete would make him immune to the worst symptoms of the disease.

Brazil has suffered one of the world’s worst outbreaks of the coronavirus, with more than 1.6 million confirmed cases of Covid-19 and over 65,000 related deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

South America’s largest country is second only to the U.S. for the highest number of confirmed cases.

The government confirmed to NBC News on Monday that Bolsonaro had been feeling unwell and was running a fever of 38 degrees Celsius (about 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit). Bolsonaro had been tested for the virus after his symptoms emerged, the presidential palace told NBC.

Last month, a judge ordered Bolsonaro to wear a face mask in public, something he has frequently failed to do. However, a separate court order later rescinded this ruling.

On Saturday, Bolsonaro was pictured alongside Todd Chapman, the U.S. ambassador to Brazil, and several others at the U.S. embassy in Brasilia.

Brazil’s Foreign Minister Ernesto Araujo posted a photo of the meeting on July 4, showing Bolsonaro, Chapman and others gathered around a table, not wearing face masks.

The U.S. embassy in Brasilia did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment on Bolsonaro’s diagnosis.

Bolsonaro has insisted throughout the pandemic that maintaining social distancing and avoiding public gatherings are unnecessary when it comes to tackling the spread of the virus. Instead, Bolsonaro has claimed that abiding by these guidelines will negatively impact the country’s economic recovery.

In April, Bolsonaro fired his health minister, Luiz Henrique Mandetta, who supported social distancing restrictions and had reportedly received high marks from the Brazilian people for his handling of the pandemic.

The president had in March tested negative for Covid-19 after his press secretary, Fabio Wajngarten, was diagnosed with the virus. Days earlier, Wajngarten, Bolsonaro and other Brazilian officials had traveled to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, where an Instagram photo showed them dining in close proximity.

Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, who also attended that gathering, were not immediately tested after Wajngarten’s diagnosis was revealed. Trump said at the time that he was “not concerned” about his contact with the Brazilian delegation, and then-White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said that Trump and Pence did not require testing because they “had almost no interactions” with Wajngarten.

Trump and Pence have since repeatedly tested negative for the coronavirus, according to the White House.

Bolsonaro is not the first world leader to be infected with the virus: United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who tested positive in April, suffered symptoms so severe that he was transferred to an intensive care unit for multiple days.

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