RIO DE JANEIRO — For months, even as the coronavirus pandemic grew into a debilitating national crisis, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro did everything he could to downplay it. He called on people to return to normal. He waded into crowds of supporters. He repeatedly described it as nothing more than a little flu.
Now Brazil is experiencing the world’s second-worst coronavirus outbreak — with 1.8 million infected and 70,000 dead — and one of the latest people to test positive is Bolsonaro himself.
The Washington Post analyzed hundreds of videos and photos of Bolsonaro to retrace his steps in the two weeks before he first reported symptoms on July 5. Experts believe symptoms may appear 2 to 14 days after exposure to the virus.
- June 23: A judge orders Bolsonaro to wear a mask when in public spaces in Brasilia and the surrounding federal district.
- June 27: Bolsonaro visited the town of Araguari in the state of Minas Gerais. Several photos and videos from the visit show him without a mask interacting with crowds.
- July 3: One hundred and eight Planalto Palace employees tested positive for the coronavirus, according to Brazil’s General Secretariat.
- July 4: Bolsonaro attended a July 4 party at the residence of the U.S. ambassador to Brazil. Photos show the two men unmasked, standing shoulder to shoulder.
- July 7: Bolsonaro held a small news conference to tell the gathered reporters, clustered nearby, that he’d tested positive for the coronavirus. And then he took off his mask.
The visual evidence shows that Bolsonaro not only met with far more people than his official schedule suggests, but that he routinely flouted public health guidelines. He at times wore a mask and maintained a distance of six feet from others. But just as frequently, he met with people without a mask, shook hands and even hugged supporters.
Bolsonaro is now isolated, taking the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine, an unproven and potentially harmful medication when used to treat covid-19. But how he got to this point is revealed in the weeks before.
Alexa Juliana Ard contributed to this report.