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Brazil presidential spokesman tests positive for virus

The Brazilian president's spokesman, Otavio Rego Barros, pictured on April 11, 2019 at the Planalto Palace
The Brazilian president's spokesman, Otavio Rego Barros, pictured on April 11, 2019 at the Planalto Palace EVARISTO SA AFP/File
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Sao Paulo (AFP)

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro's spokesman has tested positive for the new coronavirus, the government said Wednesday, the latest case to hit close to the far-right leader, who rejects social distancing measures.

Army General Otavio Rego Barros, 59, one of the administration's top public figures, "is home following all recommended protocols" after his positive test result was confirmed Tuesday, the president's office said in a statement.

More than 20 top Bolsonaro officials have tested positive for the virus, including communications chief Fabio Wajngarten and National Security Minister Augusto Heleno.

Bolsonaro himself says he tested negative.

But he has not publicly released his test results. One of Brazil's leading newspapers, Estado de Sao Paulo, is suing to force their release, arguing the president's health is a matter of public interest.

A federal judge ruled in the newspaper's favor Wednesday, rejecting the government's appeal of an earlier ruling. Further appeals look likely, however.

Bolsonaro has condemned the "hysteria" around COVID-19.

He says social distancing measures are needlessly hurting the economy, and regularly flouts them himself, hitting the streets in Brasilia and working the crowd in close quarters at rallies by his supporters.

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