Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro tested positive for the coronavirus on Tuesday, shortly after the presidential palace said he had been showing symptoms associated with the disease.
Bolsonaro announced his diagnosis to reporters, saying he had begun to feel ill on Sunday, various media reported.
The president also reportedly confirmed that he is taking hydroxychloroquine, an antimalarial drug promoted by President Donald Trump as a possible preventive treatment for the disease, as well as azithromycin. Neither drug has been shown to be an effective prophylactic or treatment for Covid-19.
The 65-year-old right-wing leader has consistently downplayed the virus threat in recent months, describing it as nothing more than “a little flu.” He also suggested that his past as an athlete would make him immune to the worst symptoms of the disease.
Brazil has suffered one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in the world, with more than 1.6 million confirmed cases of Covid-19 and more than 65,000 related deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
The largest country in South America is second only to the US for the largest number of confirmed cases.
The president’s son, Eduardo Bolsonaro, tweeted his own confirmation of the diagnosis and said it is “without further complications,” shows a translation of his publication.
“But the president will get out of this,” the young Bolsonaro tweeted. “Chloroquine treatment is very effective at the beginning of the disease.”
The government confirmed to NBC News on Monday that Bolsonaro had felt unwell and had a fever of 38 degrees Celsius (approximately 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit). Bolsonaro had been screened for the virus after his symptoms emerged, the presidential palace told NBC.
Last month, a judge ordered Bolsonaro to wear a face mask in public, something he has not frequently done. However, a separate court order later rescinded this ruling.
On Saturday Bolsonaro was photographed alongside Todd Chapman, the U.S. ambassador to Brazil, and several others at the U.S. embassy in Brasilia.
Brazilian Foreign Minister Ernesto Araujo posted a photo of the meeting on July 4, showing Bolsonaro, Chapman and others gathered around a table, wearing no masks.
The U.S. embassy in Brasilia did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment on Bolsonaro’s diagnosis.
Bolsonaro has insisted throughout the pandemic that maintaining social distance and avoiding public gatherings are unnecessary when it comes to addressing the spread of the virus. Instead, Bolsonaro has claimed that abiding by these guidelines will have a negative impact on the country’s economic recovery.
In April, Bolsonaro fired his health minister, Luiz Henrique Mandetta, who supported restrictions on social distancing and reportedly received high marks from the Brazilian people for his handling of the pandemic.
The president tested Covid-19 negative in March after his press secretary, Fabio Wajngarten, was diagnosed with the virus. Days before, Wajngarten, Bolsonaro and other Brazilian officials had traveled to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago complex in Palm Beach, Florida, where an Instagram photo showed them dining very closely.
Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, who also attended that meeting, were not evaluated immediately after Wajngarten’s diagnosis was revealed. Trump said at the time that he “was not concerned” about his contact with the Brazilian delegation, and then-White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said Trump and Pence required no evidence because they “had almost no interactions” with Wajngarten. .
Trump and Pence have repeatedly tested negative for the coronavirus, according to the White House.
Bolsonaro is not the first world leader to become infected with the virus: UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who tested positive in April, suffered such severe symptoms that he was transferred to an intensive care unit for several days.