Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro rode a police horse through a crowd in Brasilia this weekend, shaking hands with supporters, again dismissing social distancing and other measures in place to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus, which has killed at least 31,000 and infected more than half a million.
The scene followed similar incidents in the weeks prior.
So what?” Bolsonaro said in May when asked by a reporter about Brazil’s mounting coronavirus fatalities.
“I’m sorry but what do you want me to do about it?”
Bolsonaro, a former army captain who has dismissed the virus as the “little flu”, has pushed back against social isolation measures mandated by state governors, and called for the wider use of antimalarial drugs to treat COVID-19, in defiance of public health experts warning of their possible health risks.
He has continued to maintain that protecting Brazil’s economy is the most important consideration, despite widespread domestic and international criticism of his handling of the outbreak – and a rapidly rising death toll.
His open defiance has led to the loss of two health ministers – one was fired, the other resigned, after they openly disagreed with the far-right leader about how to combat the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
Experts have said the two sudden changes in leadership in the health ministry, compiled with Bolsonaro’s continued opposition to lockdowns is already having devastating consequences on Brazil, a vast, developing nation with widespread poverty, and an underfunded public health system.
“The two ministers were focused on implementing health policies that are in line with public health guidance from the World Health Organization (WHO), as well as from Brazil’s own epidemiologists and experts,” said Anya Prusa, senior associate at the Brazil Institute in the Wilson Center.
“But they ran into a government and a president who was not interested in crafting policy based on health guidelines,” Prusa told Al Jazeera. “He is a president that is focused on the economy with the exclusion of all else.”
Source: All Jazeera