Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro has been tested for the coronavirus, having reportedly shown symptoms, following months of downplaying the severity of the disease despite the country’s skyrocketing death toll.
CNN Brasil reported Monday that the president personally told its reporters he was suffering from symptoms of the coronavirus, including a fever.
The presidential palace confirmed that a test took place after he felt unwell and on Monday was running a fever of about 100.4 degrees. The statement added Bolsonaro was at home and “in good health.” The test results are expected Tuesday.
But later, Bolsonaro told supporters outside the presidential palace that while he did visit a hospital for testing, he said his lungs were “clean.”
Brazil has recorded more than 1.6 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus, second only to the United States, and more than 65,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.
More than 23,000 people who had not been diagnosed with COVID-19 died from respiratory infections between Jan. 1 and June 6, according to Fiocruz, one of Brazil’s state-run health research institutes. Experts believe that in fact most of them died from COVID-19.
The virus has also been spreading fast through Brazil’s indigenous populations, with deaths related to the disease increasing by more than five-fold through May.
In April, Bolsonaro fired his highly-respected health minister, Luiz Henrique Mandetta, who openly contradicted him over the need for social distancing. Bolsonaro has repeatedly spoken against measures including lockdown and social distancing, citing the economic costs.
The nation’s doctors have also urged the government for more stringent lockdown restrictions to prevent further infection spread, particularly in parts of the country already lacking in sufficient health resources.
Like President Donald Trump, Bolsonaro also endorsed the use of hydroxychloroquine — a malaria drug — to treat the novel coronavirus, despite a lack of scientific evidence and concerns about serious side effects.
Bolsonaro would not be the first national leader to fall ill with the virus. Britain’s Boris Johnson spent a week in an intensive care unit in April after he tested positive with the coronavirus.
Before showing symptoms of an illness, Bolsonaro spent the Fourth of July at the U.S. Ambassador’s residence. A photo shared on Bolsonaro’s Facebook page showed that they were not social distancing nor wearing masks.
Reuters contributed to this report.
Mary Murray contributed.