Brazil’s President contracts virus as US starts WHO withdrawal

RIO DE JANEIRO (AFP) – Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has tested positive for the coronavirus after months of downplaying the dangers of the disease, as the United States (US) begins its withdrawal from the World Health Organization (WHO) despite logging a record number of new infections.

The American pull-out from the WHO comes as the United Nations (UN) agency conceded there was “emerging evidence” coronavirus is transmitted through particles in the air, heightening fears over an illness that has already infected nearly 11.8 million people worldwide and caused more than 540,000 deaths.

Countries are struggling to keep a lid on new cases as they attempt to restart economies, with Australia’s second-biggest city becoming the latest victim of a second surge after recently lifting virus restrictions.

Millions in Melbourne returned to lockdown yesterday, that was forecast to run six weeks, as soaring community transmission brings more than 100 new cases daily in the city. Bolsonaro, who said he had experienced only mild symptoms so far, said he was feeling “perfectly well” as he removed his mask in a TV interview on Tuesday to announce his diagnosis.

The far-right leader has consistently ignored virus containment measures such as social distancing despite Brazil being the world’s second-worst hit country with more than 66,000 dead.

Brazil accounts for the lion’s share of infections in Latin America and the Caribbean, where the caseload has now surpassed three million, according to an AFP tally.

File photo of Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro. PHOTO: AP