Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro calls Covid-19 a ‘little flu’ and ignores social distancing

Human Rights Watch has condemned President Jair Bolsonaro saying he is putting Brazilians in grave danger by urging them not to comply with social distancing and other measures to slow the spread of Covid-19 from state governments and his own Health Ministry.

“FOR weeks, Bolsonaro has been sabotaging the states’ and his own Health Ministry’s efforts to contain the spread of Covid-19 and putting the lives and health of Brazilians at grave risk,” said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. “To avoid preventable deaths from this pandemic, leaders should ensure that people have access to accurate, evidence-based information essential to protecting their health. President Bolsonaro is doing everything but that.”

On March 20, Bolsonaro issued an executive order to strip states of the authority to restrict people’s movements to contain Covid-19.

As of April 10, 2020, Brazil had 18,397 confirmed cases of Covid-19, and 974 Brazilians had died from it, Bolsonara has continually dismissed the coronavirus as a ‘little flu’ sparking worldwide condemnation from other world leaders and health professionals.

On March 26, Bolsonaro issued a presidential decree that exempted churches and lottery houses from state and municipal health regulations by classifying them as essential services, thus allowing people to congregate there. The next day, a federal court suspended that decree, ruling that it violated federal law. The court also barred the government from adopting measures against social distancing enacted by states.

On March 23, Bolsonaro issued a presidential order suspending deadlines for government agencies to respond to public information requests including explicitly on its own policies to address the health emergency. The deadline suspension would apply to government agencies that had asked their employees to stay in quarantine or work from home, or had taken “similar measures.” If the government denies the information, the petitioner cannot appeal.

The presidential order also suspended deadlines to provide other types of information in certain circumstances.

Coronavirus has reached indigenous tribes in the Rain Forests of Brazil.

On Friday, it was confirmed that a teenager from an indigenous tribe had died after contracting coronavirus in Brazil, raising fears about the spread of the virus into protected lands.

The 15-year-old, from a village within the Yanomami indigenous territory, had been in an intensive care unit since April 3, according to Brazil’s health ministry.

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Written by

Tony Winterburn

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