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Coronavirus: Bolsonaro claims media ‘tricking’ Brazilians over severity of pandemic

‘The people will soon see they were tricked by these governors and by the large part of the media,’ says president of disease which has killed dozens in his country

Chiara Giordano
Tuesday 24 March 2020 12:40 GMT
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Brazil’s president has claimed the media is “tricking” citizens over the severity of the coronavirus pandemic.

Jair Bolsonaro also accused politicians who have closed businesses and imposed lockdowns on citizens of exaggerating the risks of Covid-19.

He has described the deadly disease as “a little flu” for weeks despite Brazil’s death toll rising to 34 on Monday, up from 25 a day earlier, and cases in the country totalling 1,891.

On Sunday, the president told Record TV: “The people will soon see that they were tricked by these governors and by the large part of the media when it comes to coronavirus.”

His comments appear to refer to governors of key states in Brazil, including Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, where people have been told to stay at home to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Sao Paulo, Brazil’s largest city, began a two-week lockdown on Tuesday, calling on all non-essential services to close down with a recommendation that people stay home.

However, Mr Bolsonaro has resisted calling for Brazilians to stay at home and for businesses to close because of his concerns about harming the economy.

He has repeatedly downplayed the gravity of the global pandemic, going as far as to brand it a “fantasy” a fortnight ago.

But polls suggest he is losing some public support after calling state governors “job killers” on Sunday for ordering shops to close in a bid to stop the spread of the virus.

Brazilians are giving the governors higher ratings, according to a Datafolha poll published on Monday that found 54 per cent of those polled rated the governors’ response to the pandemic as “great” or “good” while only 34 per cent said the same of the president.

His health minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta, who has contradicted Mr Bolsonaro on the need to restrict public meetings, was also better rated than the president, with 55 per cent seeing his work as “great” or “good.”

The poll said 15 per cent of those who voted for Mr Bolsonaro in 2018 were regretting their decision, while 68 per cent disapproved of his shaking hands with supporters outside the presidential palace earlier this month.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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