Bolsonaro defends move to open businesses, criticizes health minister

Sao Paulo, Apr 2 (efe-epa).- Brazil’s president criticized Thursday the self-isolation measures to mitigate the novel coronavirus’ impacts, defending the move to open businesses and rebuking the health minister of the country saying he lacked humility to manage the crisis.

In an interview to Joven Pan radio, Jair Bolsonaro criticized Luiz Henrique Mandetta, who had spoken in favor of social distancing as a step to contain the COVID-19 outbreak.

Bolsonaro said Mandetta lacked humility to, “to lead Brazil in this difficult time.”

“Mandetta knows that we have differed for some time, but I don’t intend to sack him in the middle of the fight,” said Bolsonaro, a staunch critic of the self-isolation recommended by the health minister. Bolsonaro until recently disregarded the infection as slight fever and cold.

The president further added that Mandetta wanted to do a lot for the cause and said, “I wish him luck and I hope that he would continue his work with a little more humility.”

He further added that none of his ministers were indispensable and could be sacked at any moment.

Although he toned down his words in the last few days, Bolsonaro once again termed the isolation measures adopted by the majority of the 27 Brazilian states to contain the virus outbreak as “an exaggeration.” The measures include closing down businesses, bars and churches along with the suspension of classes.

However, soon after the country’s health minister reiterated the call for maintaining maximum social distancing, Bolsonaro urged Brazilians to return to work and defended the opening of businesses in the cities Monday onward.

Bolsonaro further added that he had a draft legislative decree ready to be signed if needed, bearing in mind all essential and indispensable activities, and further urged the governors to revise their stance.

“We have to get ready to return to work, because sooner or later this will happen. Whether by the governors’ decision or by that of the president,” he said.

Bolsonaro reiterated the same message as of the weeks before and said the virus needed to be fought, but job destruction was also to be avoided amid the outbreak.

“We have to fight the virus, yes, but we cannot let the jobs get destroyed,” he said and added that all those below 40 should get back to work.

So far, Brazil has reported 299 deaths and 8,000 COVID-19 cases, revealing an exponential rise in both figures, and the number stood at 240 fatalities and 6,836 cases of infection.

Asked about an image of a Sao Paulo cemetery that was published around the world, that showed hundreds of grave dug up for the fatalities due to COVID-19, Bolsonaro doubted the authenticity of the picture, published in The Washington Post.

“I asked it to be looked into whether it was fake news, but it seems that it was true,” he said.

“If it is true, it cannot be made public,” the president said.

He added that it was a disgrace for Sao Paulo Mayor Bruno Covas and was not a prevention measure but one of terror.

Bolsonaro also spoke against the political and public criticism he received for his administration of health emergency measures due to the outbreak, whose severity he has downplayed on several occasions attributing it to electoral interests. EFE-EPA


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