Bolsonaro wants Brazilians to return to work amid Covid-19 lockdown

Sao Paulo, May 2 (efe-epa).- President Jair Bolsonaro has said he would like all Brazilians to return to work, in what could be construed as an indirect message to governors and mayors who have implemented social distancing measures to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.

“I would like everyone to return to work, but it is not me who decides this. It is the governors and mayors,” Bolsonaro said in a live video on the social media handles of federal lawmaker Beatriz Kicis.

The president made the speech on Friday, the International Workers’ Day.

The right-wing leader said he was sure that Brazil would “return to normalcy” soon, even though the epidemic has aggravated in the country and according to estimates by the health ministry, would peak after a few weeks.

The president has repeatedly downplayed the seriousness of the virus and has been in favor of ending lockdown measures, going as far as calling them “criminal”.

He has kept up the pressure on the governors and mayors of the country, who have the authority to enforce lockdowns in their jurisdictions according to the constitution.

Regional administrations have enforced different degrees of social distancing measures in 27 states of the country, as recommended by the World Health Organization.

Bolsonaro has also targeted the UN health group, alleging that its director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus “is not a doctor”.

The president has demanded the opening of businesses, arguing that unemployment could also lead to deaths and the economy “cannot be stopped”.

At the same time, the leader has also washed his hands off the deteriorating healthcare situation, with more than 6,329 deaths and 91,589 cases of COVID-19 so far, blaming the local authorities.

According to estimates by authorities in the worst affected state of Sao Paulo, which has had 2,511 deaths and 30,374 cases so far, the COVID-19 death toll could have been 10 times higher in the region without the isolation measures.

As the crisis deepens, some cities in the state of Maranhao in northeastern Brazil are set to be the first to adopt a complete lockdown from May 5.

A group of Bolsonaro sympathizers on Friday again took out a march with their vehicles in the center of Sao Paulo, protesting against social distancing measures enforced by Governor Joao Doria, who has had several run-ins with the president over the handling of the crisis.

The president’s far-right supporters blocked a small part of the important Paulista Avenue – having carried out similar demonstrations earlier – waved national flags and accused Doria, a leader from the opposition Brazilian Social Democracy Party, of being a “communist”.

“People need to work. Businesses are going bust. People are being rendered jobless and hunger will soon knock on everyone’s door,” Fernando, a teacher in Sao Paulo, told EFE at the protest site. EFE-EPA


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