Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro said on Monday he is feeling ‘very good’ and will return to work if he tests negative for the new coronavirus on Tuesday, but that he will continue to isolate himself until he is free of the virus.
The right-wing president told broadcaster CNN Brasil he has not felt out of breath, nor has he lost his sense of taste.
‘I am very well,’ Bolsonaro said. ‘Tomorrow is scheduled – I don’t know if it’s confirmed – a new exam. And if everything is good, we’ll go back to work. Otherwise, we wait a few days.’
Bolsonaro tested positive for the novel coronavirus on Tuesday last week, after coming down with a fever.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro feeds emus outside the Alvorada Palace in Brasilia
He scrapped a trip he had planned to northeastern Piaui state, and all his meetings for the week were converted to video calls.
One was with former congressman Roberto Jefferson, president of the conservative PTB party.
Jefferson said he went to the presidential Planalto Palace and sat in front of a large television where he could see Bolsonaro in a makeshift office at his residence.
‘I found the president well, flushed, willing. In very good health,’ Jefferson said Saturday. ‘I only saw him cough once, when I made a joke.’
Since his diagnosis, Bolsonaro has held virtual meetings almost every day with Jorge Oliveira, secretary-general of government, to sign official documents. According to Oliveira’s office, a protocol was created so work could be carried out digitally.
By Wednesday, he said he was already doing very well, crediting his use of the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine – unproven for treating coronavirus – for his mild symptoms.
In the post on Wednesday he wrote: ‘To those who cheer against Hydroxychloroquine, but do not have alternatives, I regret to inform you that I am very well with its use and, with the grace of God, I will live for a long time to come.’
Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro last week revealed he has tested positive for coronavirus – but dismissively removed his mask as he told reporters he felt ‘perfectly well’
A volunteer sprays disinfectant in an alleyway to help contain the spread of coronavirus at the Babilonia slum of Rio de Janeiro
The post was part of a Twitter thread in which the president also defended his government’s handling of the pandemic.
He claimed his government provided payouts to informal sector labourers, thereby saving jobs and lives without spreading panic about the pandemic.
‘No country in the world did it like Brazil,’ Bolsonaro said.
Bolsonaro’s decision to champion the use of hydroxychloroquine had put him at odds with two successive health ministers, who both left their jobs in April and May.
Leandro Consentino, a political scientist at a Sao Paulo university, said Bolsonaro would ‘take advantage of the illness to advertise for chloroquine’.
‘He’s going down a path of trying to indicate to his base of support that Covid-19 is just a little flu’, Consentino said.
However, political scientist Mauricio Santoro of the State University of Rio de Janeiro said Bolsonaro’s infection was a ‘blow to his credibility’.
Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro holds up a dose of hydroxychloroquine last week as he claimed the unproven drug was helping his recovery from a coronavirus infection
Brazil is the second-worst hit country by the global coronavirus pandemic after the United States.
On Tuesday, the Health Ministry registered 20,286 new confirmed cases of the disease, bringing the cumulative total cases to nearly 1.9 million, while more than 72,000 people have died from the virus in Brazil.
The Brazilian President has repeatedly played down the severity of the virus and mingled with crowds of supporters in spite of social distancing rules.
Bolsonaro, a former army captain, has previously said that his history as an athlete would protect him from the virus, and that it would be nothing more than a ‘little flu’.
The populist leader has often defied local guidelines to wear a mask in public, even after a judge ordered him to do so in late June.
The 60-year-old president – who has called the virus ‘the sniffles’ – has continued to head out to rallies and greet supporters by shaking their hands.
Asked on one occasion about the high death toll, Bolsonaro said: ‘So what? I’m sorry, but what do you want me to do?’
Over Easter he contradicted his own health ministry’s advice by going out to buy doughnuts.
‘No one will hinder my right to come and go,’ Bolsonaro said.
Police officers have been removing sunbathers from Brazil’s iconic Copacobana beach as the country’s coronavirus death toll continues to spiral
Bolsonaro has sacked two health ministers during the pandemic and repeatedly called for the country to reopen despite local administrations committing to keep their lockdowns in place.
The president has argued that the economic hardship caused by locking down the country is far graver than the disease itself.
‘People are going to die, I’m sorry,’ the president said in March. ‘But we can’t stop a car factory because there are traffic accidents.’
Beaches in tourist hot-spot Rio de Janeiro are open but the city has ruled that visitors can only use them for exercise and water sports in a bid to slow the spread of the killer virus.
Municipal police officers were pictured removing sunbathers who flout the rules.