Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro berated social isolation measures designed to slow the spread of the coronavirus, saying they are destroying jobs and compounding pain for Latin America’s largest economy.
Bolsonaro, who is himself recovering from the virus, told supporters outside the presidential palace on Saturday evening that people who are left jobless will end up dying of hunger. He said state governors and city mayors are responsible for restrictions that have been placed on commerce and movement.
“You have to think about the economy,” he said in the video that was posted on his Facebook page. “It’s no use talking about life, life and life because isolation kills.”
Bolsonaro is doubling down on his criticism of social isolation measures after Brazil added about 1 million virus cases in less than a month. The pandemic is now spreading into small towns and throughout regions that had been relatively spared, such as the South and Center-West. Still, the World Health Organization said the country’s virus figures are at a plateau, which could create a chance to control the disease.
On Sunday, a group supporting Bolsonaro rallied in front of Congress, carrying crosses and signs criticizing state governors and prolonged lockdowns. Some participants weren’t wearing masks. On Saturday, Bolsonaro said he wouldn’t attend the demonstrations himself so he “wouldn’t set a bad example.”
Meanwhile, central bank President Roberto Campos Neto said during a Thursday webcast that there are doubts on Brazil’s economic recovery, and that unemployment will get worse before it gets better. Policy makers expect the economy to contract 6.4 percent this year in an outlook that doesn’t contemplate a possible second wave of the virus.
In his Saturday comments, Bolsonaro downplayed the pandemic, saying that other ills such as hunger, misery and depression kill more than the virus. He reiterated that the government is extending financial support to informal workers who’ve lost income during the crisis.
Bolsonaro also said that he is feeling well, and defended the use of the anti-malarial medicine hydroxychloroquine to treat the coronavirus.