Brazilian governors reject president's calls to end coronavirus quarantine

The president is urging his nation to get back to work.

April 1, 2020, 1:02 PM

Governors responsible for more than 200 million Brazilian citizens have refused to relax social distances measures despite the insistence of the country’s president amid the outbreak of novel coronavirus.

Rejecting the recommendations of international organizations and his own health ministry, President Jair Bolsonaro urged his nation to end its quarantine and get back to work.

"We have to face this virus, but face it like a man, dammit, not a boy," Bolsonaro said Sunday. "We have to face it with reality. That's life. We're all going to die someday."

He added, "We have to take precautions with the elderly, with people who are at high risk. But protecting jobs is essential."

Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro gestures while meeting supporters as he leaves at Alvorada Palace, amid coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Brasilia, Brazil, April 1, 2020.
Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters

Over the last several weeks, the leader of Latin America’s most populous country has repeatedly played down the dangers of COVID-19, comparing the pandemic to a “little cold” and questioning decisions to close schools.

Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have taken down some of the president’s videos and posts because they are seen as harmful content and a violation of the companies' policies.

Bolsonaro’s rejection of international recommendations has sparked political outrage, alienating the populist president from one-time allies and igniting calls for his impeachment.

All but three of Brazil’s 27 states have refused to follow Bolsonaro's proclamation. Even former right-wing allies of the president, like Rio de Janeiro Gov. Wilson Witzel, have begun to break with him.

“So far I’ve been asking, now I am giving an order: don’t leave your home,” Witzel told Rio de Janiero residents Monday.

He went on to accuse Bolsonaro of possibly committing crimes against humanity for rejecting the advice of international health organizations.

In addition to the state governors, Brazil’s Senate has broken with the president. Many citizens have participated in nightly panelaços -- protests of banging pots and pans -- from their home quarantines.

According to Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center, Brazil has over 5,800 cases of COVID-19 with over 200 deaths as of Wednesday, the highest in South America.

A press aide of Bolsonaro tested positive for COVID-19 in March after meeting President Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago. Both Trump and Bolsonaro have tested negative for coronavirus.

ABC News' Aicha El Hammar contributed to this report.

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