Coronavirus: Judge orders Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro to wear face mask in public

Brazil has the second-highest number of Covid-19 cases and deaths in the world

Matt Mathers
Wednesday 24 June 2020 10:26 BST
Coronavirus in numbers

Far-right President Jair Bolsonaro must wear a face covering in public spaces, a judge has ruled as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to sweep the South America country.

Federal Judge Renato Borelli Coelho Borelli ordered Mr Bolsonaro to wear a mask while circulating in the capital Brasília or face a fine of up to 2,000 reais (£308).

“The president of the republic must take all necessary measures to avoid the transmission of Covid-19 – be that in order to protect his own health or that of those around him,” Judge Borelli ruled, according to documents published by the Estado de São Paulo newspaper.

Monday’s decision applies to all government employees working in the federal district where Brasília is located. The government had in April made it mandatory to for the public to wear face masks in a bid to stop tranmission of the novel disease.

Attorney general José Levi do Amaral said in a statement on Tuesday that the government was looking at ways to reverse the decision.

Brazil is now considered the epicentre of the global pandemic and earlier this week became the second country – behind the US – to register more than 1 million cases and over 50,000 deaths.

Almost 40,000 of those confirmed cases were logged on Tuesday alone, according to Brazil’s health ministry. Experts fear those figures are likely to be far higher due to inadequate testing on the ground.

The virus has already reached Brazil’s remote Amazon territories and is posing an increasing threat to indigenous peoples, with activists warning that entire communities are at risk of being “wiped out” due to their susceptibility to highly contagious diseases.

Despite the seriousness of the outbreak in Brazil, Bolsonaro has continued to downplay the dangers associated with the virus and openly defied the consensus among public health experts for slowing the outbreak.

He has also criticised lockdown and social-distancing orders issued by governors and mayors, saying the economic damage caused by such measures are worse that the virus itself.

Echoing U.S. President Donald Trump, Bolsonaro has also pushed unproven anti-malarial drugs to treat the disease.

But his most visible defiance has been going maskless at a series of demonstrations in Brasilia, holding babies for photos and shaking hands with supporters.

At one rally, Bolsonaro was filmed coughing without covering his mouth. At another, he was seen sneezing into his hand before shaking the hand of an elderly woman afterwards.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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