Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro says he has tested positive for Covid-19 after months of downplaying the severity of the virus.
Bolsonaro confirmed the test results while wearing a mask and speaking to reporters in the capital Brasilia.
"I'm well, normal. I even want to take a walk around here, but I can't due to medical advice,” Bolsonaro said.
The president has often appeared in public to shake hands with supporters and mingle with crowds, often 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” were he to contract it.
Bolsonaro has also repeatedly said that there is no way to prevent 70 percent of the population falling ill with Covid-19 and that local authorities' moves to shut down economic activity would ultimately cause more hardship than allowing the virus to run its course.
Many cities and states began lifting restrictions last month that had been imposed to control the spread of the virus as deaths began to decline along with occupancy in intensive-care units. Brazil, the world’s sixth-most-populous nation with more than 210 million people, remains one of the global hotspots of the pandemic.
Bolsonaro told supporters in Brasilia on Monday that he underwent an X-ray of his lungs that showed they were clean and that he would be tested for Covid-19. On Tuesday he told CNN Brazil that his fever had subsided.
The Brazilian leader celebrated US Independence Day on July 4 with the US ambassador to Brazil, then shared pictures on social media showing him with his arm around the ambassador alongside several ministers and aides. None wore masks.
The US embassy said on Twitter on Monday that Ambassador Todd Chapman is not showing any Covid-19 symptoms but would be tested.
Bolsonaro tested negative three times in March after meeting with the US President Donald Trump in Florida. Multiple members of his delegation to the US were later reported to be infected with the virus.
More than 65,000 Brazilians have so far died from Covid-19 and more than 1,500,000 have been infected. Both numbers are the world's second-highest totals and are considered to be vast underestimates due to the lack of widespread testing.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization's Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said Tuesday he hopes Bolsanaro’s symptoms will be "mild" and that he would be back in office as soon as possible.
(FRANCE 24 with AP, REUTERS)