Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro on Friday raised doubt on Sao Paulo’s death toll from the coronavirus outbreak and accused the state governor of manipulating the numbers for political ends, without giving evidence for his claims.
In a television interview late on Friday, Bolsonaro said, “I’m sorry, some people will die, they will die, that’s life,”
“You can’t stop a car factory because of traffic deaths”, the Brazilian leader added.
Bolsonaro said that in the state of Sao Paulo, Brazil’s economic powerhouse, the death toll seemed “too large.” Sao Paulo has the most cases and deaths so far of coronavirus in Brazil, at 1,223 cases and 68 deaths.
“We need to look at what is happening there, this cannot be a numbers game to favor political interests,” Bolsonaro said.
Earlier on Friday, Sao Paulo Governor Joao Doria, a former Bolsonaro ally who many expect to be a rival in the 2022 presidential election, accused Bolsonaro of promoting “disinformation” by launching a TV ad campaign criticizing the restrictions, featuring the slogan “#BrazilCannotStop.”
Confirmed coronavirus cases in the country jumped to 3,417 on Friday from 1,891 on Monday, as related deaths climbed to 92, according to the Health Ministry.
On Thursday, Bolsonaro released a list of essential services to be maintained amid the coronavirus pandemic that includes religious services, which are currently suspended in the country’s two most populous states as part of a prohibition on large gatherings.
After the publication of Bolsonaro’s decree, the Rio state Attorney General’s Office urged Governor Wilson Witzel to take steps to ensure “suspension of all and every kind of in-person gathering in the ambit of religious organizations.”
Bolsonaro asserts that social distancing should apply only to the elderly and infirm, even after more than a dozen of the people who accompanied him earlier this month on an official visit to the United States tested positive for COVID-19.
The president, who has previously dismissed precautions taken against the novel coronavirus as “hysteria” and “fantasy”, has been criticised for his response to the deadly outbreak.
However 14 people who travelled with him to Florida to meet US President Donald Trump have tested positive for the virus.