Bolsonaro urges Brazilians back to work, dismisses coronavirus 'hysteria'

As Brazil's largest city went into lockdown, President Jair Bolsonaro on Tuesday took aim at the "hysteria" over the coronavirus and urged that life must continue and jobs be preserved.

In an address to the nation, Bolsonaro urged mayors and state governors to roll back lockdown measures that have brought Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo to near standstills.

"We must return to normality," he said. "The few states and city halls should abandon their scorched-earth policies."

Bolsonaro has faced increasing criticism for his cavalier attitude toward the virus, which he has dismissed as a "fantasy" and a "small flu" despite its infecting over 300,000 people worldwide and killing tens of thousands.

28 PHOTOS
Pictures of the week: March 22 - 28
See Gallery
Pictures of the week: March 22 - 28
Police stop motorists as they travel on Park Street, Bristol, where random checks on essential travel are taking place as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Information screens saluting local heroes on a main road passing Canary Wharf in east London as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Police patrol Park Street, Bristol, where they are checking the movement of people as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
The Men's toilet facilities at the Strensham Services in Worcestershire where alternate urinals are out of use to maintain social distancing as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Members of the public wearing masks queue to enter shops in Melton Mowbray as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Tape marks out 2 metre sections on the floor to implement social distancing measures at a Tesco store in Peterborough, after Prime Minister Boris Johnson has put the UK in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
A deserted Piccadilly Circus during morning rush hour after Prime Minister Boris Johnson put the UK in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Customers queue between social distancing markers on the pavement outside a supermarket in Westminster, London after Prime Minister Boris Johnson put the UK in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
A London bus driver wearing a protective face mask on Westminster Bridge, London, after Prime Minister Boris Johnson made the decision to put the UK in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
A man walks in Canary Wharf, London during rush hour, after Prime Minister Boris Johnson has put the UK in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
British Airways planes parked on the tarmac at Glasgow Airport after Prime Minister Boris Johnson has put the UK in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Postal delivery worker Matt delivers mail in the village of Ironbridge in Shropshire, while his customers have to stay at home, after Prime Minister Boris Johnson has put the UK in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Information signs advise people to take essential travel only on the Queensferry Crossing, near Edinburgh, after Prime Minister Boris Johnson has put the UK in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Baby Laggar falcons at The International Centre for Birds of Prey in Newent, after Prime Minister Boris Johnson has put the UK in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
A man wearing a protective face mask walks in Canary Wharf, London during rush hour, after Prime Minister Boris Johnson has put the UK in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Simon Cotterill, Head Teacher of Manor Park School and Nursery in Knutsford Cheshire, sits in an empty classroom, the day after Prime Minister Boris Johnson put the UK in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
A couple hug on the steps on The National Gallery in Trafalgar Square in London the day after Prime Minister Boris Johnson put the UK in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
A view of Lakeside Retail Park in Thurrock, Essex, the day after Prime Minister Boris Johnson put the UK in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
A quiet Canary Wharf Underground Station, the day after Prime Minister Boris Johnson put the UK in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
A couple wearing protevtive equipment walk by the Bullring in Birmingham, the day after Prime Minister Boris Johnson put the UK in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Skegness pier is closed, the day after Prime Minister Boris Johnson put the UK in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
A man walks in Holyrood Park, Edinburgh, the day after Prime Minister Boris Johnson put the UK in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
A sign from the Royak Parks notifying the public about social distancing at the Piccadilly entrance to Green Park, London, as Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said the Government is ready to impose tougher restrictions to curb the spread of the coronavirus if people do not follow the guidance on social distancing.
Hospital staff and ambulance staff prepare to take a patient into the Royal Liverpool University Hospital, as Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said the Government is ready to impose tougher restrictions to curb the spread of the coronavirus if people do not follow the guidance on social distancing.
A dog walker looks at the signage the entrance for Osterley Park and House in Isleworth, London, after The National Trust announced it has shut down all of its parks and and gardens across the UK until further notice.
British Airways aircraft parked at Bournemouth airport where they are expected to remain after the airline reduced flights amid travel restrictions and a huge drop in demand as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Drivers form a long queue to use a McDonald's drive-thru near Dover in Kent as it was announced that all of their restaurant locations in the UK and Ireland will close by 7pm on Monday to protect the safety of their employees and customers from coronavirus.
Emily, 9, sits at her desk at home on the first day of home schooling after schools shut on Friday due to the coronavirus pandemic.
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

During his address Tuesday night, people banged pots and pans in a traditional form of protest in Sao Paulo and Brasilia. Opinion polls have shown Bolsonaro's popularity slipping.

He said the terrible situation in Italy would not be repeated in Brazil because of the Latin American country's younger population and warmer climate.

Italy has had more people die of the coronavirus than any other country, with the death toll rising to 6,820 on Tuesday.

Most people, including himself, had nothing to fear, Bolsonaro said.

"In my particular case, with my history as an athlete, if I were infected with the virus, I would have no reason to worry, I would feel nothing, or it would be at most just a little flu," he said.

Coronavirus deaths in Brazil on Tuesday rose to 46 from 34, and the number of cases rose to 2,201 from 1,891, according to government figures. Wanderson de Oliveira, a Health Ministry official, told reporters Brazil would vastly expand testing in the coming days.

Economic prospects for Brazil, Latin America's largest economy, are worsening amid the pandemic. Data showed consumer confidence fell to a three-year low in March, and retail sales in January declined at the fastest rate in over a year, indicating consumer spending was off to a weak start in 2020, even before the coronavirus outbreak.

Two of Brazil's top airlines said they would cut more than 90% of their domestic flights until at least May.

The slowdown is set to worsen as Sao Paulo, Brazil's largest city, began a two-week lockdown on Tuesday. The state government ordered all non-essential services and businesses to close.

The city's usually gridlocked streets were quiet. Buses still ran and construction was allowed to continue in a bid to avoid complete economic collapse in the country's economic powerhouse. Restaurants were open for takeout and delivery workers whizzed through the thinning traffic on bikes and scooters.

"Everyone is scared," said Gidalva do Santo, 50, who had left home briefly to visit the doctor. "Everyone has to look after themselves, taking hygiene seriously, washing their hands."

Sao Paulo, which recorded the first cases, has been the hardest hit.

Waiting for a train in a usually packed station, Antonio Lima, 50, said he was worried about the impact on his small construction business.

"It's a constant worry, because we have workers to pay. If it is halted and there's no financial solution, companies will go bust," he said.

Earlier on Tuesday, Bolsonaro patched up a diplomatic spat with China, agreeing in a call with President Xi Jinping to fight the spread of the coronavirus together.

The dispute began last week when Bolsonaro's son blamed Chinese authoritarianism for preventing faster action against the coronavirus.

Xi and Bolsonaro's conversation included discussion of cooperation in medical supplies, Chinese Ambassador Yang Wanming said on Twitter, without providing details.

A Chinese diplomatic source said the country, which has seen some success in taming the virus through severe lockdown measures, would provide Brazil "with material and technical assistance to the best of its ability."

Read Full Story

FROM OUR PARTNERS