Brazilian President Bolsonaro Rejects Calls for Coronavirus Lockdown, Says 'We're All Going to Die One Day'

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has repeatedly dismissed the coronavirus as a "little cold" and urged residents to keep the country's economy going, even going so far as to tell his supporters why he's against lockdown: "We're all going to die one day."

Bolsonaro, who is often compared to President Donald Trump, upped the ante Sunday on his downplaying of the pandemic, capping weeks of spats with state governors demanding nationwide quarantine orders. The Brazilian Health Ministry reported 3,904 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 114 deaths related to its disease, COVID-19. The Brazilian president was widely criticized for holding a handshaking meet and greet with his supporters on March 15 and recently referred to self-quarantine orders in other countries as "mass confinement."

"The virus is here, we're going to have to confront it. Confront it like a man, not a boy!" Bolsonaro told supporters outside his residence Sunday, according to the Associated Press. "We're all going to die one day."

In a national television address last week, Bolsonaro also accused the country's news media of over-hyping the spread of the virus. "Most of the media has been countervailing," he said. "They spread the sensation of dread, with their flagship the high number of victims in Italy. The perfect scenario to be used by the media to spread hysteria."

Bolsonaro has echoed the Trump's recent calls for people to return to work in order to boost the economy, with the Brazilian president asking last week why schools should be closed if only people over the age of 60 are at risk of infection from the virus. In that same address, he referred to the virus as "a little cold."

As The Washington Post noted in a Sunday opinion piece, "Bolsonaro out" chants have been widely heard in neighborhoods throughout São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Atlas Politico reports that almost half of the country's population supports his removal from office, which he assumed following the October 2018 election. Brazil is Latin America's largest country and now leads the region in both cases and deaths tied to COVID-19.

Brazil's minister of health warned last week that the country's health care system will collapse by the end of April, with millions of impoverished residents needing assistance and food. State governors have encouraged social isolation, closing churches and malls as the virus spreads.

But Bolsonaro has continued to downplay the effects or longevity of the health crisis. "It will pass shortly," he predicted last week, according to The Washington Post, while calling for small businesses to reopen to help the country's poor get back to work. "Our lives have to continue; jobs should be maintained."

jair bolsonaro brazil coronavirus trump
President Donald Trump and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro attend a joint news conference at the White House on March 19. Bolsonaro has repeatedly dismissed the coronavirus as a "little cold." CHRIS KLEPONIS / POOL/Getty Images