Bolsonaro trivializes coronavirus and demands return to normal in broadcast to nation

The president rejected isolation, blamed the press for “hysteria” and said that COVID-19 is “just a little cold”

Translated by: Zoe PC, with Peoples Dispatch

Brasil de Fato | São Paulo |
Bolsonaro spoke on national tv and radio about coronavirus on March 24 - Screen capture/Brasil de Fato

Jair Bolsonaro criticized the measures of social isolation decreed by governors of several states and said that the press is causing panic and hysteria in Brazilian society when reporting on coronavirus.

According to him, state and municipal authorities should abandon the concept of scorched earth and return to normal. He questioned the motives behind the school closures, since the at-risk group is above 60 years-old and again said that Brazil needs to guarantee jobs during the crisis.

The statements were made on national radio and television channels on the night of Tuesday March 24. During his pronouncement, Bolsonaro said that the press exaggerated when they spoke about the pandemic and exploited the case of Italy.

“They spread fear, using the announcement of the great number of victims in Italy, a country with a large number of elderly people and a totally different climate than we have here. It is a perfect scenario, taken advantage of by the media so that hysteria spreads across our country.”

Bolsonaro said that God will empower scientists to cure coronavirus. He again called the pandemic “just a little cold” and said that 90% of people that will be infected will not have symptoms. Furthermore, the president affirmed that since he used to be an athlete, he does not have to be worried and will not feel anything.

Again the president expressed hope for a cure using the medicine chloroquine, that still does not have proven effectiveness in the treatment of COVID-19. The medicine, used to treat lupus and malaria, went out of stock in pharmacies after the president of the United States, Donald Trump shared that it had alleged success in treating cases of coronavirus.

On Monday March 23, a US couple ingested chloroquine phosphate and within thirty minutes of ingestion fell ill. According to National Public Radio, the man died and the woman was hospitalized.

The coronavirus pandemic has already caused more than 18,883 deaths across the world and more than 421,792 people have been infected. In Brazil there are 2,247 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 46 dead.

8 days of cacerolazos

At the time of the president’s declaration, at 20:30, fresh cacerolazos (mobilizations where people bang pots and pans) in rejection of Bolsonaro were carried out in several cities. It is the eighth consecutive day of protests motivated above all, by the position of Bolsonaro in response to the social crisis and public health crisis provoked by the pandemic of new coronavirus.

Political isolation

Governors, party leaders in the National Congress and presidents of the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate criticized the position of the president and talk of impeachment began to gain strength in diverse political sectors.

The president of the Federal Senate, Davi Alcolumbre was one of the first to manifest publicly after the president’s pronouncement. In a note signed with the vice-president of the Federal Senate, Antonio Anastasia, they characterized the president’s speech as “grave” and affirmed that the country needs “a leader who is serious, responsible, and committed with the life and health of the population.”

“We reaffirm and insist: this is not the moment to attack the press and other public agencies. It is the moment of unity, serenity and balance, to listen to the experts and professionals in the area so that the necessary precautions and measures are adopted in order to control the situation before it is too late,” declared Alcolumbre and Anastasia.

The president of the Chamber of Deputies, Rodrigo Maia, welcomed the position of Alcolumbre and affirmed on social media that the “pronouncement of the president was wrong in attacking the press, the governors, and public health specialists” and explained that since the beginning of the crisis “they have been calling for reason, balance and unity.”

The leadership of the minority and opposition in the Chamber of Deputies, shared a note on Wednesday March 25 in rejection of the speech of the president. In the text, the deputies affirmed that the president was putting the lives of thousands of Brazilians at risk.

The minority leader of the Chamber of Deputies, José Guimarães, affirmed that Bolsonaro must be banned. “The pronouncement of Bolsonaro is an act of complete and extraordinary irresponsibility in the political management of the country. It shows the population the dramatic effect of the lack of coherence in the treatment of what is the largest crisis that Brazil has faced in the last several years, according to various health authorities in the country and the health minister himself.”


Edited by: Ítalo Piva