Brazil soldiers coronavirus
Soldiers stand in formation before disinfecting wagons for the new coronavirus at the central train station in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where trains connect cities within the state, on Thursday, March 26, 2020. Image Credit: AP

Brasilia / Rio de Janeiro: Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro said on Monday that there can be no more quarantine measures imposed on the country than those already in place to combat coronavirus because jobs are being destroyed and the poor are suffering disproportionately.

Speaking to Rede TV, Bolsonaro criticised self-isolation and other measures imposed by local authorities to limit the spread of the virus, a view that again appeared to put him at odds with Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mendetta.

Mendetta on Monday urged Brazilians to maintain maximum social distancing to ease the strain on the fragile health system and said that 200 million personal protective equipment (PPEs) items would be arriving from China next month.


people have died of the coronavirus in Brazil

“You can’t impose any more quarantine than there already is,” Bolsonaro said, adding that the question people ask him most is when can they return to work.

Income for poorest citizens

Brazil’s Senate passed a bill on Monday evening guaranteeing some of the country’s poorest citizens income of 600 reais ($117) a month for three months, a package that could cost almost 50 billion reais.

According to Bolsonaro, all measures to combat the crisis could cost 800 billion reais, and the economy, which is expected to contract this year, could rebound and be back on track within a year.

Brazil Bolsonaro
Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro greets supporters and journalists as he arrives to give a news conference on the new coronavirus at Planalto presidential palace in Brasilia, Brazil, on Friday, March 27, 2020. Image Credit: AP

Earlier on Monday, Bolsonaro had stepped up his stand-off with state governments, branding governors in the hardest-hit states “job-killers” and suggesting that democracy could be at risk if the coronavirus crisis leads to social chaos.

“When the situation is heading toward chaos, with mass unemployment and hunger, it’s fertile ground for some to exploit, seeking a way to reach power and never leave it,” Bolsonaro told reporters outside the presidential palace.

Break with ‘democratic normalcy’

Bolsonaro last week warned that Brazil could break with “democratic normalcy,” citing the risk of rioting and suggesting “the left” could capitalise on any chaos, without elaborating.

The right-wing populist, elected in 2018 on a pledge to break with a corrupt political establishment, has long defended Brazil’s 1964-1985 military dictatorship as necessary to keep communists out of power.

The coronavirus outbreak, which has now resulted in 4,579 confirmed cases and 159 deaths in Brazil, has led governments around the world to call for emergency powers, raising concerns among human rights advocates.

So far Brazil’s political leaders have been eager to negotiate emergency measures such as a “war budget” exempt from fiscal rules, but many have criticised the president, who lacks a solid alliance in Congress, for downplaying health risks.

On Sunday, Bolsonaro visited a market area outside the federal capital to stress the message that lockdown measures should be relaxed.

Facebook, Instagram remove Bolsonaro video questioning virus quarantine

Facebook and Instagram removed videos of Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro on Monday, saying they spread misinformation about the coronavirus, a day after Twitter did the same.

“We remove content on Facebook and Instagram that violates our terms of use, which do not allow misinformation that could cause physical harm to individuals,” Facebook said in a statement in Portuguese.

Twitter on Sunday explained it had removed the videos in accordance with its recently expanded global rules on managing content that contradicted public health information from official sources, and could put people at greater risk of transmitting COVID-19.

The videos showed the far-right leader flouting his government’s social distancing guidelines by mixing with supporters on the streets of Brasilia on Sunday and urging them to keep the economy going.

- with inputs from AFP