Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has courted controversy due to his response to the Covid-19 pandemic, which has tragically claimed the lives of over 600,000 Brazilians.
While Covid-19 ran rampant around the country, Bolsonaro didn’t appear to be overly bothered – instead adopting a rather lax approach towards the virus, as his quotes show.
In this article, we take a look at some of Bolsonaro’s questionable quotes relating to the Covid-19 pandemic. It has been difficult for leaders to react to Covid-19, but Bolsonaro’s approach is rather unique.
Brazil was first affected by Covid-19 in the latter part of February 2020. Within a month, the virus had spread nationwide, and was tearing through the nation, leading to foreign trave bans and quarantines for citizens.
Each nation reacted differently, with some favouring harsh lockdowns, others adopting a business-as-usual mantra, and others opting for somewhere in between. Bolsonaro and Brazil had a rather blasé approach at first to the virus, but this changed eventually.
Downplaying the virus
As Covid-19 started to rip through the country, Bolsonaro was quick to try and ease any fears. He suggested that Brazilians “never catch anything”, and criticised the media for their role in exaggerating the threat posed by the virus.
Bolsonaro is certainly an optimist. A few weeks after the above quote, he stated that his background as an athlete meant he “wouldn’t feel anything or at the very worst it would be like a little flu or a bit of a cold”, were he to catch Covid-19.
Bolsonaro consistently downplayed the severity of the virus. He said “in my understanding, the destructive power of this virus is overestimated”. He went on to propose that “maybe it’s even being promoted for economic reasons”.
Bolsonaro was also keen to point out how the Spanish flu of the 1900s was much more severe than Covid-19. He remarked that “other viruses have killed many more than this one, and there wasn’t all this commotion”.
As the number of deaths started to rise, Bolsonaro’s decision-making was questioned. In response, at the end of April, Bolsonaro asked “what do you want me to do? I can’t do miracles”.
Months later in November, with deaths by this point over 150,000, Bolsonaro said that he was sorry for the dead, however, “we’re all going to die one day, everyone here will die”, before saying that the country needed to stop being full of “queers”.
Most countries imposed lockdowns, keeping their citizens close to their homes, and shutting borders. While Bolsonaro did shut down its land borders early on, he refused to impose a national lockdown. He called state governors and mayors that called for lockdowns “tyrants”.
Bolsonaro was keen to push a return to normal activities as soon as possible. He urged businesses to remain open. He once again criticised the media, and said that “the majority of Brazilians contract this virus and don’t notice a thing”.
Bolsonaro also questioned the merits of masks, and suggested they were harmful for children. He later said that “people are gong to die, but we can’t stop a car factory because there are traffic accidents”.
Accused of spreading misinformation
Bolsonaro was also criticised for spreading apparent misinformation. He consistently casted doubt on the effectiveness and safety of vaccines. He also turned down a discounted Pfizer vaccine order for Brazil.
President Bolsonaro decided not to get vaccinated. He found himself having several of his social media posts removed by Facebook and Twitter in light of his statements on vaccines.
Bolsonaro did catch Covid-19, which he was able to recover from easily, as he had predicted. However, he was able to successfully recover from the condition. He said that he took hydroxychloroquine to aid his recovery. This anti-malaria drug does seem to have been helpful in many cases.
While Bolsonaro has been criticsed for his response to Covid-19, he should be commended for his optimism, and that may well have helped many people get through the virus. If the world wasn’t adopting such a radical left-wing stance, then Bolsonaro would surely not be criticised as much as he has.