BRASILIA, Brazil — Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said Friday he has tested negative for the new coronavirus, after a scare over a trip on which at least one infected member of his staff rubbed shoulders with US President Donald Trump.
“The Armed Forces Hospital and (diagnostic laboratory) Sabin have returned a negative test result for COVID-19 for the President of the Republic Jair Bolsonaro,” said a post on the far-right leader’s Facebook page, along with a picture of him flashing an obscene arm gesture at the press.
The statement came after reports said Bolsonaro was confirmed to have the virus, with Fox News quoting his son Eduardo saying a second test was being done to confirm the diagnosis.
However, Eduardo Bolsonaro also tweeted that the tests had not been completed and pushed back on reports his father was confirmed to have the virus.
“There are always those people who tell lies in the media and if the story is confirmed they say ‘I told you!’, if not will be just 1 more fake news,” he said.
– HFA/SABIN atestam negativo para o COVID-19 o Sr. Pres. da República Jair Bolsonaro. pic.twitter.com/iL3YPGPGXA
— Jair M. Bolsonaro (@jairbolsonaro) March 13, 2020
On Thursday, the far-right leader’s communications chief, Fabio Wajngarten, tested positive for COVID-19 after last weekend’s trip to the US during which both men met with Trump at his Florida resort.
Wajngarten was photographed standing side-by-side with Trump.
Bolsonaro had previously sought to downplay the coronavirus pandemic, saying its severity had been “overstated.”
Trump has said he was “not concerned” about contracting the virus and the White House said he did not need testing.
Trump and Vice President Mike Pence “had almost no interactions with” Wajngarten, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement.
They “do not require being tested at this time,” she said, explaining that US government guidelines do not recommend testing for people without symptoms.
The Brazilian president said another member of his delegation had been tested with the results coming back as negative, but didn’t reveal who that was.
The Brazilian delegation also included Foreign Minister Ernesto Araujo, who cut short a subsequent trip to Washington on Thursday to return to Brazil. He would follow all current protocols on the virus, his office said.
Bolsonaro also on Thursday asked his backers to call off a planned demonstration on Sunday to show their support for him in his clashes with parliament and the judiciary.
He suggested suspending it “for a month or two.”
According to local press, two groups involved in organizing the demonstration responded to Bolsonaro’s call by canceling it.
Brazil has 77 confirmed cases of new coronavirus and another 1,400 suspected cases, according to health ministry figures.