Jair Bolsonaro holds up hydroxychloroquine drug in Brazil

Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro holds up his hydroxychloroquine pills to a cheering crowd and takes off his mask as supporters turn out to greet him despite his coronavirus infection

  • Bolsonaro greeted his supporters outside the presidential palace in Brasilia
  • Supporters cheered as Bolsonaro held up the drug before removing his mask
  • Bolsonaro tested positive again last week but says he is not suffering symptoms 
  • The 65-year-old president has raged against lockdowns despite huge death toll

Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro held his hydroxychloroquine pills aloft like a trophy last night as he rallied with a crowd of supporters despite his coronavirus infection. 

Bolsonaro greeted his fans outside the presidential palace in Brasilia where he has been in quarantine since announcing his positive test result on July 7. 

Supporters cheered as Bolsonaro showed off the unproven anti-malaria drug which he claims is making him better, before removing his mask to tell the crowd that ‘the pandemic was unfortunate, but we will overcome it’. 

While Bolsonaro kept his distance from across a stream, his supporters were packed on the waterside in spite of social distancing rules which he has repeatedly scorned. 

The 65-year-old former army captain has raged against lockdowns despite the country’s enormous death toll, after dismissing the virus as a ‘little flu’.   

Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro shows his hydroxychloroquine pills to a cheering crowd who gathered to greet him outside the presidential palace in Brasilia last night  

Bolsonaro held up the drug which he claims is making him better, but which is not proven effective against Covid-19 despite its list of prominent backers including Donald Trump 

Bolsonaro announced on Wednesday that he was still positive for the virus, but says he is not experiencing symptoms and credits his good health to hydroxychloroquine.

‘I am not recommending anything. I recommend that you talk to your doctor. In my case, a military doctor recommended hydroxychloroquine, and it worked,’ he said. 

Like Donald Trump, Bolsonaro has touted hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for Covid-19 but its effectiveness against the disease has not been proven. 

‘We know that there is no scientific evidence, but it worked with me,’ Bolsonaro said on Wednesday. 

‘The future will say whether that remedy is effective or not. It was for me. I believe in it. If it was, a lot of people were wrong. People with responsibility.’

Bolsonaro previously told critics of the drug that ‘I regret to inform you I’m very well and will live for a long time’.  

Besides hydroxychloroquine, Bolsonaro says he is also taking an anti-parasite drug to fight coronavirus. 

Bolsonaro took off his mask as he spoke to supporters in Brasilia last night, telling them that ‘the pandemic is unfortunate but we will overcome it’

While Bolsonaro kept his distance from across a stream, his supporters were packed on the waterside in spite of social distancing rules

Brazil is adding tens of thousands of new cases per day, as shown on this graph. Last week it became the second country to pile up two million confirmed infections 

Brazil’s daily death toll has been consistently in the hundreds since April and is frequently over 1,000 per day. The total death toll is currently 79,488 

Bolsonaro’s administration has now gone two months without a full-time health minister after losing two of them during the pandemic. 

Interim minister Eduardo Pazuello, a military general who had no experience in the field before April, is already facing pressure to leave the job. 

He took over after his predecessor Nelson Teich, a doctor and health care consultant, quit in protest over Bolsonaro’s support for the use of hydroxychloroquine. 

The president’s office says Bolsonaro is still working by video conference at his official Alvorada Palace residence in the capital.  

He told CNN on Monday that he ‘can’t stand this routine of staying at home’ and said he was waiting ‘anxiously’ to be given the all-clear to leave the house.

Bolsonaro has also been seen feeding rheas, a bird species native to South America that is related to the ostrich and emu. One of them even pecked him.  

Before his positive test result, Bolsonaro frequently mingled with crowds in defiance of social distancing rules and sometimes refused to wear a mask. 

Speaking on Saturday, Bolsonaro declared that ‘lockdown kills’ and added that curfew measures had ‘suffocated’ the country’s economy. 

‘Without salaries and jobs, people die,’ he said referring to restrictions imposed against his will by some regional leaders in Brazil. 

Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro holds up a dose of hydroxychloroquine in his office earlier this month after revealing he was taking the drug

Bolsonaro revealed his positive test result on July 7 in a televised interview, after which he took his mask off and declared he was perfectly well  

Asked on a previous occasion about the high death toll, Bolsonaro said: ‘So what? I’m sorry, but what do you want me to do?’ 

More recently, Bolsonaro has watered down a law that would require citizens to wear face masks in public. 

Earlier this month he vetoed several articles of the bill such as those requiring employers to supply masks for their staff and another mandating that authorities should provide masks for ‘economically vulnerable people’.  

Later, he also vetoed sections requiring masks be worn in prisons and another obliging businesses to provide information on how to wear masks properly.

Some states have already made the wearing of face-coverings mandatory, but this was the first such law on a national level.

Brazil has piled up 2,098,389 infections and 79,488 deaths during the pandemic, the second-worst totals in the world after the United States.  

Infections passed the two million mark on Thursday when Brazil recorded more than 45,000 new cases in the space of 24 hours. 

The state of Sao Paulo accounts for more than 400,000 infections alone, while the Rio de Janeiro region has seen more than 130,000. 

It is also feared that the true toll is far higher because of a lack of widespread testing in Latin America’s largest country. 

Bolsonaro has previously referred to the coronavirus as a ‘little flu’ and railed against the WHO’s advice

Bolsonaro has frequently made light of the virus and ignored social distancing etiquette (pictured: on horseback during a rally on May 31)

Brazil, however, is the sixth most populous country in the world and its per capita deaths are not as high as in some European countries.

Bolsonaro’s government at one stage tried to remove the majority of virus statistics from its official website, before a judge ordered him to reinstate them. 

Meanwhile, indigenous leader Raoni Metukire, who has clashed with Bolsonaro over the preservation of the Amazon rainforest, is ‘stable’ in hospital after having a blood transfusion but testing negative for coronavirus.  

Raoni, a chief of the Kayapo people in northern Brazil, has been hospitalized since Thursday for weakness, shortness of breath, poor appetite and diarrhea.

‘The chief has a stable condition after receiving a blood transfusion,’ the Raoni Institute said. 

Raoni, now in his 90s, then was transferred to Dois Pinheiros Hospital in the city of Sinop on Saturday due to weakness and a worsening condition.  

He has been an outspoken critic of Bolsonaro and visited European leaders last year to denounce his calls for developing indigenous lands in the rainforest. 

Bolsonaro rejected a call by French president Emmanuel Macron to meet with Raoni. 

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