Jair Bolsonaro reportedly has Covid-19 symptoms

The president has a high fever and low blood saturation. Test results are expected on Tuesday

President Bolsonaro. Photo: Isac Nóbrega/PR
President Bolsonaro. Photo: Isac Nóbrega/PR

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro — one of the world’s biggest coronavirus denialists — is reportedly experiencing symptoms of Covid-19. According to CNN Brasil, the president has a high fever and low blood saturation. The president canceled his entire schedule for the week, including an important cabinet meeting. Mr. Bolsonaro told the cable news channel that he is taking hydroxychloroquine — an antimalarial drug touted by him as a “possible cure” for the disease, but with no proven efficacy.

The Brazilian president took multiple Covid-19 tests earlier today and the results are expected tomorrow around noon. At 65 years old, Jair Bolsonaro is considered to be an at-risk patient.

Mr. Bolsonaro met today with several cabinet members, including Economy Minister Paulo Guedes and Chief of Staff Walter Braga Netto. On July 4, he sat down with U.S. Ambassador Todd Chapman to celebrate Independence Day.

Jair Bolsonaro hugs U.S. Ambassador Todd Chapman on July 4. Photo: Isac Nóbrega/PR

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Mr. Bolsonaro has belittled the severity of the crisis. He asked people to go about their business as usual and joined numerous street demonstrations against quarantine rules enacted by state governors. His nonchalance includes not naming a permanent Health Minister for over 50 days — Army General Eduardo Pazuello still holds the office on an interim basis. He also recently lifted the obligation to wear protective masks in several public spaces — a move questioned by infectious disease experts.

In one public address to the nation, Mr. Bolsonaro said that even if he were to contract the coronavirus, he would develop no more than the “sniffles,” thanks to his “past as an athlete.”

The city of Brasília, where the federal government is headquartered, has experienced a surge in coronavirus cases since the local administration began relaxing social isolation rules. It is now the fourth state with the highest contamination rate: 1,688.54 per 100,000 people.

Change of tone?

Talking to CNN Brasil about his possible Covid-19 infection is certainly an inflection from his previous behavior. 

Early in March, President Jair Bolsonaro had dinner with U.S. President Donald Trump at Mr. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago hotel, in Florida. After that trip, at least 22 members of the presidential entourage tested positive for Covid-19. As of March 19, three percent of all cases in Brazil had shared a plane with the president.

But between March and May, Mr. Bolsonaro was coy about his health situation. He took three tests — but refused to disclose their results. The case went to the Supreme Court, forcing him to make the tests public. All three came back negative.

A blow to Bolsonaro’s political strategy

As reporter José Roberto Castro explained this weekend, Mr. Bolsonaro had launched a strategy to improve his approval ratings in the Northeast region — where he polls the worst. That would include a series of trips to the region with local leaders, a plan that is now on hold.

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