President Bolsonaro has fired two health ministers who attempted to protect Brazil from the virus. This morning, he confirmed a positive test. But in Jair’s world, schadenfreude is obsolete.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, one of the world’s most pre-eminent COVID-marginalisers, has contracted the virus. In a television address (wearing a mask with his face on it), Bolsonaro said that the test: “came back positive,” quickly adding that “there’s no reason for fear. That’s life…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.”
At one point, he removed his mask and, grinning, said: “Just look at my face. I’m well, fine, thank God … Thanks to all those who have been praying for me … and to those who criticise me, no problem, carry on criticising as much as you like.”
Bolsonaro has continued to criticise the “overblown” attempts to slow the spread of the virus through shutdowns and social distancing.
“Some authorities even forbade people from going to the beach,” Bolsonaro complained, before anecdotally noting that “The majority of Brazilians contract this virus and don’t notice a thing.”
Bolsonaro, a habitual breaker of social distancing and trivialiser of the pandemic (Brazil is currently only behind the United States in cases and deaths) told the media back in March that if infected, he would easily shed himself of the virus, because of his “athletic background”. In the interim months, he has appeared at social engagements, often either not wearing a mask, or wearing one incorrectly.
Bolsonaro has sacked two health ministers and the country now operates without one. He also took to the streets of Sao Paolo, where he headlined a protest against the governor, who started to enforce coronavirus lockdowns. ‘If they keep doing this, it will lead to food shortages’, Jair said, pre-emptively blaming the regional leaders. If they wanted to do this, then it was up to them: ‘People are dying: so what? What do you want me to do?’, he said, echoing Donald Trump, who had also said that he wouldn’t ‘take responsibility at all’.
He has, in the words of The Guardian, steering Brazil with ‘fact-free leadership’. As The Big Smoke’s Ingeborg van Teeseling noted, “he kept the pandemic out of the limelight for a long time. ‘Brazilians don’t get sick’, he said. ‘We already have antibodies and we never catch anything’. For months, Brazil did nothing: hardly any testing, and beauty parlours stayed open as ‘essential services'”.
The situation is eerily similar to the United Kingdom, as Boris Johnson uniformly denied anything was the matter, reaching his illogical zenith with his trip to a hospital ward, shaking hands with those suffering from the virus. He, of course, contracted COVID-19 a short time later.
But, while Boris’s Dickensian brush edged him closer to the rest of us, Jair Bolsonaro remains a proud monument to idiocy, a greying Christ the Redeemer knock-off, looming over the country not with arms open, but shoulders shrugged.