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Brazil economy 'can't stop' for coronavirus: Bolsonaro

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Sao Paulo (AFP)

Brazil's far-right President Jair Bolsonaro on Sunday flouted his government's social distancing guidelines against the spread of the coronavirus by mixing with supporters on the streets of Brasilia and urging them to keep the economy going.

"What I have been hearing from people is that they want to work," the president told a street vendor in one of several videos posted on his Twitter account.

"What I have said from the beginning is that 'we are going to be careful, the over-65s stay at home,'" he said.

"We just can't stand still, there is fear because if you don't die of the disease, you starve," the vendor is seen telling Bolsonaro, who responds: "You're not going to die!"

In another video, the president calls for a "return to normality," questioning quarantine measures imposed by governors and some mayors across the giant South American country as an effective containment measure against the virus.

"If it continues like this, with the amount of unemployment what we will have later is a very serious problem that will take years to be resolved," he said of the isolation measures.

"Brazil cannot stop or we'll turn into Venezuela," Bolsonaro later told reporters outside his official residence.

On Saturday, Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta highlighted the importance of containment as a means of fighting the coronavirus, which has already infected 3,904 people in Brazil, leaving 114 dead, according to the latest official figures.

"Some people want me to shut up, follow the protocols," said Bolsonaro. "How many times does the doctor not follow the protocol?"

"Let's face the virus with reality. It is life, we must all die one day."

In the four videos posted on his Twitter account, Bolsonaro is seen surrounded by small crowds as he walked about the capital.

Bolsonaro has described the coronavirus as "a flu" and advocated the reopening of schools and shops, with self-isolation necessary solely for the over-60s.

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