Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who has consistently downplayed the risks of coronavirus , announced Tuesday he has tested positive, as the United States, the nation hardest hit by the pandemic — formally launched its withdrawal from the World Health Organization (WHO).
The UN health agency meanwhile acknowledged that there was “emerging evidence” of airborne transmission of COVID-19, which has infected nearly 11.7 million people around the globe and caused more than 539,000 deaths.
Bolsonaro, who said he had experienced only mild symptoms, has ignored containment measures such as social distancing, despite Brazil being the second-worst hit country, with more than 66,000 dead.
The far-right leader, who at 65 is in the highest-risk age category, insisted he was feeling “perfectly well” and took off his face mask during a TV interview announcing his test results.
He repeated his mantra that the “collateral effects” of the virus should not be worse than the illness itself.
Since the beginning of the virus outbreak, Bolsonaro has minimized the risks of what he initially called “a little flu” while resisting wearing a mask in public.
Brazil is a large reason why Latin America and the Caribbean has now surpassed three million cases, according to an AFP tally.
The region has seen nearly 140,000 deaths, nearly half of them in Brazil.