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Brazil’s cabinet gets tested for coronavirus

Ministers who have had contact with Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, over the past days are getting tested for coronavirus.

Mr Bolsonaro announced on Tuesday that he had tested positive after developing a high temperature and a cough.

He said that he was already feeling better and later posted a video on social media of himself taking the controversial drug hydroxychloroquine.

Mr Bolsonaro has in the past played down the risks posed by coronavirus.

Who’s been tested?

A number of ministers have already revealed that they have tested negative for coronavirus. Among them are Regional Development Minister Rogério Marinho, Secretary of Government Luiz Eduardo Ramos and Mr Bolsonaro’s chief of staff, Walter Souza Braga Netto.

Foreign Minister Ernesto Araújo, who attended an Independence Day celebration with Mr Bolsonaro on Saturday, and tweeted a picture of himself with the president, also says he tested negative.

The US embassy, which hosted the event, said that Ambassador Todd Chapman, who had had lunch with the president on Saturday was also clear of the virus, but added that he would remain in quarantine.

In a photo posted by the ambassador neither the president nor the ambassador were wearing masks.

Muito honrado em receber o senhor presidente @jairbolsonaro este #4deJulho para celebrar os 198 anos das relações entre 🇧🇷 e 🇺🇸 e os 244 anos da independência dos Estados Unidos. Continuamos #TrabalhandoJuntos! pic.twitter.com/CpzlarGgyS

End of Twitter post by @USAmbBR

Three more senior members of Mr Bolsonaro’s cabinet said they had taken the test but the results are not yet known.

Business as usual?

The office of the president released photos of the rooms where Mr Bolsonaro had been being deep cleaned by workers in protective suits.

Mr Bolsonaro told journalists on Tuesday that he was feeling “very well” and removed his mask so they could “look at my face”.

He also said that he was taking hydroxychloroquine – championed by US President Donald Trump – and azithromycin, an antibiotic, to treat the illness. Neither has been proven to be effective against the virus.

He also posted a video on Facebook [in Portuguese] in which he can be seen swallowing a pill and saying that he “has trust in hydroxychloroquine”.

“We know today there are other remedies that can help fight the coronavirus,” he says in the video.

“We know none of them have their efficacy scientifically proven, but I’m one more person for whom this is working. So I trust hydroxychloroquine. Do you?”

Mr Bolsonaro has cancelled a planned trip to Brazil’s north-east, but has said he will continue working and holding meetings with his ministers via videoconference.

What is the state of Covid-19 in Brazil?

Infections in Brazil and Latin America as a whole took a while to take hold but then started to rise, initially for Brazil in its Amazonas region but then more starkly in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo.

Brazil became only the second country to pass one million cases on 20 June and has continued to rise, passing 1.5 million. Many experts believe deficiencies in testing mean the overall figures for cases and deaths could be considerably higher.

Nevertheless lockdowns began to be lifted in many areas even as the cases surged. Both Rio and São Paulo have reopened bars and restaurants in the past week.

Two health ministers – both doctors – have left their posts after disagreements with the president.

One ray of hope though is Brazil’s renowned expertise in vaccines. Two major vaccine tests, in partnership with AstraZeneca and Sinovac, are to begin final phase testing on thousands of Brazilian volunteers.

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