Bolsonaro: “I have to be on the frontline”

bolsonaro press conference coronavirus
Image: TV Brasil

Flanked by a number of his cabinet ministers, all wearing protective masks, President Jair Bolsonaro gave a press conference this afternoon on measures to combat the Covid-19 outbreak. The president claimed that he “will never abandon the Brazilian people” during the mounting coronavirus crisis.

However, he maintained his stance that the media coverage of the Covid-19 pandemic is “hysteria.” “It’s a serious situation, but we cannot stray into hysteria, into public commotion.” He also defended his behavior in joining street protests in his favor on Sunday, saying that he “has to be on the frontline.”

bolsonaro mask
Bolsonaro fumbles with his protective mask during a press conference

“I wouldn’t be surprised if in the coming days you saw me on a busy train in São Paulo, a ferry in Rio de Janeiro, or a bus in Belo Horizonte. It’s about being with the people.”

Mr. Bolsonaro and the nine cabinet ministers in attendance began the conference using protective masks, mentioning that Mines and Energy Minister Bento Albuquerque had recently tested positive for coronavirus. However, while addressing the public, the members removed their masks to speak.

The press conference served for the administration to present a series of measures already announced by various sectors of the government. President Bolsonaro spoke of a request to declare a state of public calamity, admitting that the public health system will not be able to receive the large number of infected people that are expected to arrive at hospitals around the country.

Jair Bolsonaro downplayed his rifts with Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta, declaring that it was a time for “unity, collective efforts, and focus on the health of Brazilian families.”

Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta, who was the last to speak, announced that a hotline will be launched by Friday to monitor confirmed cases. He admitted that infections might have been underreported. “We expect cases to rise. But all laboratories in the states have equipment to run tests,” he said.

Economy Minister Paulo Guedes explained that the declaration of a public calamity will suspend this year’s primary results targets, allowing the federal government to use countercyclical measures. These include an advance of BRL 48 billion in pensions in April and May, and another BRL 12 billion in salary allowances in June.

Elsewhere, Justice Minister Sergio Moro spoke of his department’s efforts to enforce quarantine measures, giving police forces the power to hold those denying isolation orders criminally liable. “I hope all Brazilians understand how serious the situation is, however, there is no reason to panic.”

Defense Minister and retired Army General Fernando Azevedo e Silva said that Brazil could rely on the Armed Forces “in this war against an invisible, ferocious enemy.”