Brazil’s President Bolsonaro tests negative for coronavirus

In this handout photo released by Brazil’s Presidential Press Office, Brazilian Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta, left, and President Jair Bolsonaro, wear masks as they speak about the new coronavirus during a Facebook Live transmission, in Brasilia, Brazil, Thursday, March 12, 2020. Bolsonaro has tested negative for the new coronavirus, according to a post Friday on his official Facebook profile. Bolsonaro, 64, received the test on Thursday after his communications director was confirmed to have the virus.(Brazil’s Presidential Press Office via AP)

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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro has tested negative for the new coronavirus, according to a post Friday on his official Facebook profile.

He traveled to Florida last weekend and dined with his U.S. counterpart, President Donald Trump, and a member of the delegation that accompanied him had tested positive after meeting Trump. Bolsonaro, 64, received the test on Thursday after his communications director was confirmed to have the virus.

There had been a swirl of confusing information earlier Friday, with a some media reporting Bolsonaro had received an initial positive test result. But the president’s official social media account later said tests were negative, and also posted a photo of Bolsonaro making an offensive arm gesture to reporters earlier this year.

“Don’t believe the fake news media!” he wrote in a subsequent post.

Bolsonaro’s Mar-a-Lago meeting also included Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump, son-in-law Jared Kushner, Brazil’s foreign minister Ernesto Araujo and Bolsonaro’s son Eduardo, who is a federal lawmaker, among others. Vice President Mike Pence and Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani also went to Mar-a-Lago that evening.

This week, Bolsonaro told a group in Florida that he believed mainstream media was exaggerating the virus’ severity. He reversed course Thursday, wearing a face mask on a live transmission on Facebook. On a televised address later, he said the World Health Organization “responsibly” characterized the virus as a pandemic, and tried to dissuade supporters from turning out for mass demonstrations scheduled for March 15.

The rallies “demonstrate the maturity of our presidential democracy and are evident expressions of our liberty. They need, however, to be rethought in the face of these facts. Our health and that of our families must be preserved,” Bolsonaro said.

Bolsonaro’s health has been a focus since a 2018 stabbing on the campaign trail. Since the assassination attempt, he has already undergone four surgeries with a fifth one upcoming. In December, he was taken to the hospital after slipping in the bathroom of the presidential residence and banging his head.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover. In mainland China, where the virus first exploded, more than 80,000 people have been diagnosed and about 60,000 have so far recovered.

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