Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Friday questioned the death toll in Sao Paulo following the coronavirus epidemic and accused the state governor of manipulating the figures for political gain without providing evidence of his claims.
Bolsonaro’s accusations were the latest revelation of an ugly battle against the governors of Brazil, who thwarted the president’s view that protecting the economy takes precedence over social distancing measures to curb the spread of the highly contagious virus.
Following the advice of public health experts, the vast majority of the country’s 26 governors have banned non-essential commercial activities and public services to contain the epidemic in their states.
“I’m sorry, some people will die, they will die, that’s life,” Bolsonaro said in a television interview Friday evening. “You can’t stop a car factory because of traffic deaths.”
Bolsonaro said that in the state of Sao Paulo, the economic power of Brazil, the death toll seemed “too great”. Sao Paulo has so far the highest number of cases and deaths of coronavirus in Brazil, with 1,223 cases and 68 deaths.
“We have to look at what’s going on there, it can’t be a numbers game to promote political interests,” said Bolsonaro.
Earlier on Friday, governor of Sao Paulo Joao Doria, a former Bolsonaro ally whom many expect to be a rival in the 2022 presidential election, accused Bolsonaro of promoting “disinformation” by launching a television advertising campaign criticizing the restrictions, with the slogan “#BrazilCannotStop. “
The slogan is similar to a campaign in Milan before the deaths in Italy soared.
Brazilian Ministry of Justice
On Friday, all non-resident foreigners were prevented from entering the country via its airports. The travel ban takes effect on Monday and follows similar measures in several other South American countries.
Also on Friday, Brazil’s central bank called for emergency bond buying powers in line with quantitative easing policies in other countries, while unveiling a line of credit of 40 billion reais to help small businesses manage their wages.
Economy Minister Paulo Guedes said the government would offer 45 billion reais to the self-employed and informal workers, adding that all government measures to fight coronaviruses would total 700 billion reais over three months.
Confirmed cases of coronavirus in the country rose to 3,417 on Friday, compared to 1,891 on Monday, while the number of deaths rose to 92, according to the Ministry of Health.
Bolsonaro’s popularity dropped during the crisis, and many people across Brazil knock pots and pans in their windows every night to protest his manipulation.
Friday, during counter-protests, supporters of Bolsonaro led caravans to honk their horns in big cities to oppose the blockages, sharing videos on social networks with the hashtag #BrazilCannotStop.
Television advertising, shared on social networks by Bolsonaro allies, including his son, Senator Flavio Bolsonaro, was commissioned by the President’s office for 4.9 million reais ($ 1 million) without consulting the Ministry of Health, according to two people familiar with the matter.
“For neighborhood sellers, for downtown store owners, for domestic workers, for millions of Brazilians, Brazil cannot stop,” said the announcement, which shows scenes crowded classrooms and street markets.
The slogan is similar to #MilanWillNotStop, which became popular in northern Italy in February. Italy has become a global epicenter of the epidemic, with more deaths than China.
The mayor of Milan, Beppe Sala, regretted sharing the hashtag.
“Many have referred to this video with a hashtag #MilanWillNotStop. It was a video that went viral on the Internet. Everyone shared it, I also shared it, rightly or wrongly, probably wrongly, ”said Sala in a TV interview.
An official with the Ministry of Health told reporters that the ministry would not comment on Bolsonaro and that the guidelines recommending social separation remained the same.