After months of downplaying the urgency of the novel coronavirus, Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro was tested positive for the virus on Wednesday. Now, he’s encouraging the public an unproven COVID-19 remedy.
He took to Facebook, which has over 13 million followers, and posted a video where he downs the anti-malarial pill and smiles. Flaunting a facade of vigor and strength, it comes when COVID-19 cases top 1.7 million in Brazil and that has killed 68,000.
President Bolsonaro’s announcement about his COVID positive result came on Tuesday after he started to feel ‘fatigue’ muscle pain’ and ‘fever,’ he told reporters outside the presidential palace of Brazil.
The president has, since the beginning, lead a botched response in handling the pandemic in Latin America’s largest nation. Parts of his response on the COVID-19 pandemic included shaking hands with people unbarred, undoing face mask in public, championing unproven remedies of the virus, and clashing with his government officials who would raise alarm on his reckless handling of the grave crisis.
While announcing to the press about his positive COVID-19 result, he emphasized he was already feeling better, and the reason he claimed was because of the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine. He said, soon after he took his first dose, he started to feel ‘much better.’
Time and again Bolonaro shrugged off the dangers of the novel coronavirus and often discouraged social distancing to the public. At one point, he even compared the virus with little flu. “After being stabbed, I’m not going to be brought down a little flu?” he said in March.
After he tested positive on Wednesday, hours later the Brazilain president shared a video on Facebook. He held a pill of hydroxychloroquine, and gulped it, saying it was his third dose of the day. “I trust hydroxychloroquine”, he said, with a smile. “And you?”
On Wednesday, he was seen pushing the drug’s benefits again, this time claiming that his political opponents are rooting against the anti-malarial drug. “To those who cheer against hydroxychloroquine, but have no alternatives, I regret to inform you that I am very well with its use and, with the grace of God, I will live for a long time,” he wrote on Facebook.
Is Hydroxychloroquine effective to treat the novel Coronavirus?
It seemed to, at least initially. But a string of research published later in Britain, the US, and the WHO, found the drug to be ineffective to treat the novel coronavirus. Not only this, but reports also suggest the drug has a counter-positive effect on COVID-19 patients because of its side effect on the heart.
On June 17th, WHO discontinued the hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) arm of the Solidarity Trial to find an effective COVID-19 treatment. The reason WHO cited was: “Data from Solidarity (including the French Discovery trial data) and the recently announced results from the UK’s Recovery trial both showed that hydroxychloroquine does not result in the reduction of mortality of hospitalized COVID-19 patients when compared with standard of care.”
Paulo Calmon, a political science professor at the University of Brasilia branded the Brazilian president as “the poster boy for curing COVID with hydroxychloroquine”, The Indian Express reports. “Chloroquine composes part of the denialist’s political strategy, with the objective of convincing voters that the pandemic’s effects can be easily controlled,” Calmon said.
Brazil is the second worst-hit nation in the world after the US. On Tuesday alone, the country reported 45,305 new infections and 1,254 deaths, according to The New York Times.
(Cover image courtesy of Jair Messias Bolsonaro via facebook)