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‘Coronavirus may kill, but so does hunger’


President Bolsonaro’s popularity is falling due to his handling of the outbreak, which he has repeatedly called a ‘little flu’.

BRASILIA – Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said on Tuesday that hunger is just as big a threat as Covid-19, again minimizing the seriousness of the coronavirus outbreak during a prickly news conference in which his supporters harangued reporters.

Bolsonaro, a far-right populist, has grown increasingly isolated over his belief that keeping the economy running is more important than strict quarantine measures advocated by state governors, public health ministers and even his health minister.

On Tuesday, Bolsonaro reiterated that view to journalists and supporters gathered outside his the presidential residence in Brasilia.

“Those who are under 40 years of age have almost zero chance of death. So there’s no reason not to let these people work. After all, if the virus kills in some cases, hunger also kills,” Bolsonaro said.

The event was marked by ugly scenes when Bolsonaro’s supporters harassed reporters.

After a question about Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta, who has argued in favour of social isolation measures, a Bolsonaro supporter shouted that journalists were “pitting the people against the president.”

Bolsonaro responded by encouraging the supporter to speak and telling journalists to be quiet. “It is he who will speak, not you,” the president said.

When the journalists withdrew from the scene, Bolsonaro appeared to mock them, asking them if they were “going to abandon the people?” After a few minutes, Bolsonaro resumed talking with reporters.

Polls show that Bolsonaro’s popularity is falling due to his handling of the outbreak, which he has repeatedly called a “little flu.” Most nights, Brazilians cooped up in their apartments have taken to banging pots and pans in protest, often screaming “Bolsonaro out!”

During Tuesday’s news conference, Bolsonaro said he would immediately sign into law a measure giving cash aid for informal workers that the Senate approved on Monday.

The aid, of 600 reais ($115) per month, will be paid for three months and is intended to help informal workers make ends meet, while states and cities enforce coronavirus lockdown measures.

The package could cost nearly 50 billion reais and the money will be distributed via state lender Caixa Economica Federal . – Reuters

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