What is special about scientific facts is that they do not distinguish between political parties or religious beliefs. The coronavirus pandemic has made this abundantly clear, as we see how countries that have refused to believe scientists are the ones that have been hardest hit by COVID-19.
The case of Brazil, particularly its president, Jair Bolsonaro, is the most ironic of all.
After months of denying even the existence of the virus that has claimed the lives of more than 65,000 Brazilians, Bolsonaro has tested positive for COVID-19, according to the The New York Times.
On Tuesday, the Brazilian president announced that he had also been infected, without admitting that this could be a consequence of his constant disregard for preventive measures such as social distancing.
Meanwhile, the epidemic in his country has become the second worst in the world. (Only the U.S. has a higher death toll.)
Like his American counterpart, Bolsonaro has refused to wear masks, forced his team to organize mass rallies, calling on thousands of his supporters and insisting that the virus “does not pose a threat to healthy people,” as the Times continues.
He has also defended treatments contraindicated by scientific specialists, such as the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, which now, since his confinement, is supposedly his first recourse to fight COVID-19.
“I’m doing much better than I was,” Bolsonaro said in a video posted Tuesday night as he washed down a dose of hydroxychloroquine with water. “It’s working.”
According to the Times, the U.S. National Institutes of Health stopped a hydroxychloroquine clinical trial in June, saying the drug didn’t work, and the Food and Drug Administration issued a warning in May, explaining that the drug can cause dangerous heart rhythm abnormalities in patients with coronaviruses.
For Bolsonaro, that’s also false: “I’m one more person it’s working on,” he added in his video. “I trust hydroxychloroquine.”
In fact, he has felt so comfortable that he took off his mask in front of the journalists when he announced that he was positive for COVID-19, which has triggered a wave of lawsuits by the Brazilian media.
As reported by Reuters, Brazilian broadcasters took journalists off the job after they were exposed to Bolsonaro in the interview, putting them in quarantine until they tested negative for the disease.
In its complaint, the press association alleged that Bolsonaro had committed at least two crimes related to imminent danger to a person’s life or health and failure to prevent the spread of an infectious disease.
The Brazilian Press Association, a prestigious professional group that advocates for the journalism industry, requested that his complaint be sent to the Prosecutor General’s Office to decide whether there are grounds for a criminal investigation.
Bolsonaro’s contempt for common sense has gone so far that it is very difficult to interpret it as anything other than cynical negligence.
Further evidence of this has been his decision to veto protections for indigenous peoples from COVID-19.
As explained by CNN, the president vetoed points that ensured access to drinking water, free distribution of hygiene products, and distribution of cleaning and disinfection materials to indigenous communities. He also vetoed a proposal that would ensure mandatory emergency funds for health care for those communities.
Despite being approved by Congress and the Senate, the protections have been blocked by the president, making it virtually impossible for indigenous communities to access more hospital beds and intensive care units, ventilators and blood oxygenation machines.