After slamming vaccines, Bolsonaro criticizes masks

no one wears masks
Bolsonaro with supporters: no masks. Photo: Alan Santos/PR

Since the coronavirus arrived in Brazil one year ago, President Jair Bolsonaro has been one of the most vocal agents of pandemic misinformation. He touted unproven drugs to treat Covid-19 and tried to spark vaccine skepticism among his supporters. Now, he has set his sights on discrediting masks.

During a Facebook live broadcast on Thursday, Mr. Bolsonaro talked about “side effects” caused by masks. Crediting an unnamed “German university,” he listed a series of undesired effects such as “irritability, headaches, lack of concentration, feelings of unhappiness, refusal to attend school, lethargy, learning disabilities, vertigo, and fatigue.”

The “study” Mr. Bolsonaro cited was in fact an unscientific online poll conducted by five researchers at Witten/Herdecke University outside Dortmund.

Like hydroxychloroquine or social isolation measures, the president’s supporters have transformed the use of facemasks into another culture war. Last year, he was quoted saying that “masks are for faggots.” And Brasília correspondent Renato Alves reported that within public buildings, servants were often peer-pressured into not wearing face coverings.

At one point early in the pandemic, the presidential palace was one of Brazil’s coronavirus hotbeds. With new variants spreading across the country, that could happen once more.

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