Coronavirus: Brazil’s president rejects COVID-19 as a ‘little flu’ and ignores distancing rules

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro has snubbed the advice of health experts over coronavirus as he took to the streets to greet members of the public.

The 65-year-old right-wing leader has compared COVID-19 to a “little flu” and publicly attacked state governors in his country who have introduced quarantine measures.

On Friday, a national holiday in Brazil, Mr Bolsonaro ignored social distancing guidelines as he went to a military hospital, before stopping at a pharmacy and then visiting one of his sons in a residential building.

At one of the stops, he was greeted by supporters who snapped photos and called his name.

However, he was also subjected to criticism, with some residents in Brasilia banging pots and pans in anger.

More than 1,000 people have died from coronavirus in Brazil, with close to 20,000 confirmed cases, according to Johns Hopkins University, which is tracking the outbreak.

Mr Bolsonaro has increasingly isolated himself politically by maintaining that jobs and the economy must prevail and that Brazil “cannot stop”.

His popularity has fallen during the coronavirus crisis, with a growing number of Brazilians angered by his stance.

His message and public appearances during the pandemic are at odds with recommendations from Brazil’s health minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta.

The minister has garnered support among Brazilians with daily updates on the coronavirus, filled with technical details, best practices and recommendations from authorities such as the World Health Organisation.

On Friday, it was confirmed that a teenager from an indigenous tribe had died after contracting coronavirus in Brazil, raising fears about the spread of the virus into protected lands.

The 15-year-old, from a village within the Yanomami indigenous territory, had been in an intensive care unit since 3 April, according to Brazil’s health ministry.

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