RIO DE JANEIRO – Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro called on Saturday the governor of Sao Paulo “lunatic” for having decreed a 15-day lockdown in Brazil’s most populous state to check the spread of coronavirus.
In an interview to CNN Brazil, the far-right leader criticized steps taken by Joao Doria and some other regional governors to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak, such as quarantine and shutting airports.
“To tell the truth, this is a lunatic. He’s taking advantage of the situation to do politics. He is taking the opportunity to grow politically,” said the head of state when asked about the emergency measures in Sao Paolo.
Earlier during the day, Doria had announced a 15-day state-wide quarantine starting Tuesday, after the health ministry reported that coronavirus related deaths increased by 63.6 percent in a day, with Sao Paolo accounting for 15 of the 18 fatalities recorded.
“I want to say as governor of the state of Sao Paulo, that as of Tuesday March 24, we decree quarantine to the 645 municipalities of the state of Sao Paulo, with the obligation to close all non-essential trade and services,” Doria had announced.
Meanwhile, Bolsonaro also criticized Rio de Janeiro Governor Wilson Witzel for shutting down the city’s airport, claiming these measures would only create an environment of fear and could lead to depression and reduce people’s immunity.
The president also alleged that these state governors were taking advantage of the situation to increase their political capital with an eye on the 2022 presidential elections.
“Those few governors who criticize me all the time say I don’t have leadership (to fight the coronavirus). And I say to you, the 2022 election is a long way off,” he said.
The president underlined that in the face of the economic slowdown brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, his main concern was about the livelihood of people and preventing unemployment from increasing due to “measures taken by these irresponsible governors.”
According to the latest official figures, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Brazil grew by 24.78 percent, from 907 on Friday to 1,128 on Saturday.
Of the total cases, 40.69 percent (459) was registered in Sao Paulo, Brazil’s most populous state, with 46 million inhabitants, 22 percent of the Brazilian population.
“It’s flu for me and, you can be sure, for more than 60 percent of Brazilians it will be nothing. They won’t know or feel in case they get infected. I understand that for the elderly and people with diseases actually getting the virus can be serious,” Bolsonaro said.