RIO DE JANEIRO—Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro says he’s confident that he'll recover swiftly from the new coronavirus because of treatment with hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malaria drug.
Bolsonaro said he tested positive on July 7 after months of downplaying its severity, while deaths mounted rapidly inside the country.
He told reporters he had a lung X-ray on July 6 after experiencing fever, muscle aches, and malaise. By July 7, he said his fever had subsided, and he attributed the improvement to hydroxychloroquine.
He removed his mask at one point during a press conference to show that he looked well.
The 65-year-old has been known to mingle in crowds without covering his face confirmed the results while wearing a mask and speaking to reporters huddled in front of him in the capital, Brasilia.
“I’m, well, normal. I even want to take a walk around here, but I can’t due to medical recommendations,” Bolsonaro said.
Later on July 7, he posted a video to Facebook of him taking his third dose of hydroxychloroquine, which also has been promoted by President Donald Trump.
“Today I’m a lot better, so certainly it’s working,” Bolsonaro said, downing the dose with a glass of water. “We know today there are other remedies that can help fight the coronavirus. We know none of them have their efficacy scientifically proven, but I’m one more person for whom this is working. So I trust hydroxychloroquine. And you?”
Brazil, the world’s sixth-biggest nation with more than 210 million people, is one of the outbreak’s most lethal hot spots. More than 65,000 Brazilians have died from COVID-19, and over 1.5 million have been infected.
Other world leaders who have had bouts with COVID-19 include British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Britain’s Prince Charles, Prince Albert II of Monaco, and Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández.
Bolsonaro has often appeared in public to shake hands with supporters and mingle with crowds, at times without a mask. He has said that his history as an athlete would protect him from the virus and that it would be nothing more than a “little flu” if he were to contract it.
He’s also repeatedly said that there is no way to prevent 70 percent of the population falling ill with COVID-19 and that local authorities’ efforts to shut down economic activity would ultimately cause more hardship than allowing the virus to run its course.
Brazilian cities and states last month began lifting restrictions that had been imposed to control the spread of the virus, as deaths began to decline along with the caseload in intensive care units.
Bolsonaro supporter Silas Ribeiro said on the streets of Rio that the president is correct in saying the dangers of the virus have been exaggerated.
“Our president is a popular man. He is showing that he isn’t afraid to die,” said Ribeiro, 59. “He is going to have health and get through this sickness.”
Bolsonaro has repeatedly visited the hospital since taking office, requiring several operations to repair his intestines after he was stabbed while on the campaign trail in 2018.
He said he canceled a trip this week to Brazil’s northeast region and will continue working via videoconference and receive rare visitors when he needs to sign a document.
Unlike Britain’s prime minister, who moderated his rhetoric after testing positive for the virus, Bolsonaro probably won’t change his stance, said Leandro Consentino, a political science professor at Insper, a university in Sao Paulo.
“He’s going down a path of trying to indicate to his base of support that COVID-19 is just a little flu and take advantage of the illness to advertise for chloroquine,” Consentino said.
Over the weekend, the Brazilian leader celebrated America’s Independence Day with the U.S. ambassador to Brazil, then shared pictures on social media showing him in close quarters with the diplomat, along with several ministers, and aides. None wore masks.
The U.S. Embassy said on Twitter that Ambassador Todd Chapman isn’t showing any symptoms but would be tested.
Bolsonaro tested negative three times in March after meeting with Trump in Florida. Members of his delegation to the U.S. later reported becoming infected.