Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has tested positive for COVID-19, he told reporters Tuesday, according to the Associated Press. His announcement comes as the most populous country in Latin America grapples with an enormous coronavirus surge that critics have blamed on his administration’s response to the pandemic.
“It came back positive,” Bolsonaro told a group of reporters on Tuesday, according to the Guardian.
Bolsonaro, 65, first began experiencing a fever and other symptoms of the virus on Monday, according to a report in Portuguese from CNN Brasil, and he had a test performed at the Alvorada Palace, the official residence of the president in Brasília. He also had an MRI performed on his lungs at a nearby hospital and was said to be taking hydroxychloroquine, the anti-malaria drug touted by President Donald Trump but which the FDA says is not likely to be effective in treating the virus.
This past weekend, Bolsonaro was photographed not wearing a mask and touching others in close contact at the US Embassy, celebrating the 4th of July. A photo tweeted by Brazil's foreign minister, Ernesto Araújo, shows Bolsonaro sitting next to the American ambassador, Todd Chapman.
Bolsonaro, a far-right former army captain, has been accused of taking a flippant attitude to the coronavirus pandemic. He has told supporters not to “run away from the virus like cowards” and to go back to work. He has also described COVID-19 as being nothing more than “a little cold.” When Brazil’s official death toll overtook that of China in April, Bolsonaro dismissively told reporters, “So what? What do you want me to do?”
He has often refused to wear a face covering even after a federal judge ordered him to do so or face a fine. In March, Twitter took the extraordinary step of deleting two tweets from Bolsonaro which it said contained false or misleading information about COVID-19.
Brazil is second only to the United States in COVID-19 cases globally, with more than 65,000 deaths and more than 1.6 million confirmed cases, according to Johns Hopkins University. Brazil’s poorest citizens, particularly those living in favelas, have been especially affected by the country’s outbreak.
This is not Bolsonaro’s first coronavirus scare.
On March 7, the Brazilian leader visited Trump at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, after which at least two Bolsonaro aides were confirmed to have the virus. Media reports said Bolsonaro himself had tested positive, but he later said he tested negative.
Bolsonaro is not the first world leader to have been diagnosed with COVID-19. Prince Albert II of Monaco first announced he had contracted the virus on March 19. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson also spent time in an intensive care unit after he was diagnosed with the disease.