Bolsonaro opposes social distancing as Brazil sets record 90,000 COVID-19 cases

March 18, 2021 - 2:35 PM
Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro reacts during a ceremony to expand the ability of the government to purchase vaccines against COVID-19, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Brasilia, Brazil, March 10, 2021. (Reuters/Ueslei Marcelino/File Photo/File Photo)

BRASILIA — Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro on Wednesday said he was happy that supporters have been staging anti-social distancing protests, on the same day as the country registered more than 90,000 new COVID-19 cases for the first time.

The infections record came one day after Brazil posted a separate record for deaths related to the virus, more than 2,800 in one day.

“Logically, I was happy,” Bolsonaro said of the protests in remarks broadcast on social media. “They show that the people are alive … we want our freedom, we want the world to respect our constitution.”

In recent days, Bolsonaro nominated a cardiologist to become the country’s fourth health minister since the pandemic started. Replacing an active-duty military general, the change came as experts worldwide criticized the spread of the virus in Brazil, and as Bolsonaro downplayed the severity of the disease.

Brazil now has 11,693,838 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Deaths on Wednesday rose by 2,648, the second highest tally after the record reported Tuesday, and now total 284,775. —Reporting by Ricardo Brito and Pedro Fonseca Editing by Chris Reese