Despite infection, Bolsonaro takes spin, chats up workers

Brasília (AFP) –


Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro refused to let his case of coronavirus keep him down Thursday, going for a spin on a motorcycle and chatting maskless with a team of groundskeepers outside the presidential palace.

Bolsonaro, 65, has been in quarantine at the Alvorada Palace in Brasilia since testing positive for the new coronavirus on July 7. He had to cancel upcoming travel plans after a new test came back positive again Wednesday.

The far-right leader admitted in a live Facebook video Thursday that he was feeling "a bit wretched at being imprisoned here."

Photographs captured him taking a motorcycle for a spin on the palace grounds, stopping at one point to talk to a team of groundskeepers raking leaves -- despite his positive test result and the fact that neither he nor the workers appeared to be wearing face masks.

The president's office told AFP it "will not be commenting" on the pictures.

Bolsonaro, who has been called a "Tropical Trump," has repeatedly defied social distancing guidelines. He regularly hit the streets for rallies by his supporters even as the pandemic exploded in Brazil.

The South American country has the second-biggest outbreak in the world, after the United States, with nearly 2.3 million infections and more than 84,000 deaths.

Brazil registered its two highest daily numbers of new infections Wednesday and Thursday, with 67,860 and 59,961, respectively.

Bolsonaro, who has compared the virus to a "little flu" and condemned the economic impact of stay-at-home measures to contain it, said on Facebook he was feeling "great."

"You have to be careful, but there's no reason to live in terror," he said.

"We're concerned with protecting lives, but the collateral damage from these (stay-at-home) policies is going to kill a lot more people than the virus."

Critics condemned the presidential outing.

"This shows Bolsonaro's monstrosity and contempt for Brazilians' lives," tweeted Congressman Marcelo Freixo, leader of the left-wing Socialism and Liberty Party (PSOL).

Bolsonaro has continued greeting supporters from quarantine, separated by a narrow reflecting pond but maskless.

He has also been spotted in the gardens feeding -- and occasionally getting bitten by -- rheas, a South American bird related to the emu.