RIO DE JANEIRO – Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro has tested negative for the new coronavirus, according to a post Friday on his official Facebook profile.
Concern about Bolsonaro's exposure to virus — and possibly that of U.S. President Donald Trump — had grown after confirmation that the Brazilian leader's communications director tested positive. The senior official had joined Bolsonaro just days earlier at a meeting with Trump and senior aides in Florida.
There had been a swirl of confusing information earlier Friday, with a some media reporting Bolsonaro had received an initial positive test result. But the president's official social media account later said tests were negative, and also posted a photo of Bolsonaro making an offensive arm gesture to reporters earlier this year.
"Don't believe the fake news media!" he wrote in a subsequent post.
Bolsonaro’s meeting this week at Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort also included Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump, son-in-law Jared Kushner, Brazil’s Foreign Minister Ernesto Araujo and Bolsonaro’s son Eduardo, who is a federal lawmaker, among others. Vice President Mike Pence and Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani also went to Mar-a-Lago that evening.
This week, Bolsonaro told a group in Florida that he believed mainstream media was exaggerating the virus’ severity. He reversed course Thursday, wearing a face mask on a live transmission on Facebook from the capital, Brasilia. On a televised address later, he said the World Health Organization “responsibly” characterized the virus as a pandemic, and tried to dissuade supporters from turning out for mass demonstrations scheduled for March 15.
The rallies “demonstrate the maturity of our presidential democracy and are evident expressions of our liberty. They need, however, to be rethought in the face of these facts. Our health and that of our families must be preserved,” Bolsonaro said.
Bolsonaro’s health has been a focus since a 2018 stabbing on the campaign trail. Since the assassination attempt, he has already undergone four surgeries with a fifth one upcoming. In December, he was taken to the hospital after slipping in the bathroom of the presidential residence and banging his head.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.
The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover. In mainland China, where the virus first exploded, more than 80,000 people have been diagnosed and about 60,000 have so far recovered.
Brazil currently has 98 confirmed diagnoses of the virus, but no reported deaths, and is monitoring more than 1,400 possible cases. On Wednesday, the governor of the Brazilian district that includes Brasilia enacted a five-day suspension of all classes, concerts and sporting events that gather more than 100 people in an effort to contain the virus' spread.