June 24, 2020 / 3:43 AM / 10 days ago

Brazil judge orders Bolsonaro to wear a mask due to COVID-19

BRASILIA/SAO PAULO (Reuters) - A Brazilian judge ordered President Jair Bolsonaro to wear a mask in public after the right-wing populist attended political rallies without one in the middle of the world’s second-worst coronavirus outbreak.

Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro attends the inauguration ceremony of the Main Space Operations Center of the Geostationary Defense and Strategic Communications Satellite in Brasilia, Brazil June 23, 2020. REUTERS/Adriano Machado

Federal Judge Renato Borelli ruled in a decision made public on Tuesday that Bolsonaro was subject to a fine of 2,000 reais ($387) a day if he continued to disobey a local ordinance in the federal district meant to slow the pandemic.

Brazil’s solicitor general, which argues the government’s legal interests, said in a statement that it was studying ways to reverse the decision.

Brazil has more confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths than anywhere outside the United States.

On Tuesday, Brazil registered an additional 1,374 deaths from the virus and 39,436 new cases in the past 24 hours, according to the Health Ministry. The novel coronavirus has killed more than 52,000 people in Brazil and infected more than 1.1 million.

That has made the country a prime location for vaccine trials, which began over the weekend for a candidate developed by Oxford University. Brazil’s interim health minister said on Tuesday that the government would likely sign a deal this week to produce the university’s trial vaccine locally.

On other fronts, Bolsonaro has openly defied the consensus among public health experts for slowing the outbreak.

The president has criticized lockdown and social-distancing orders issued by governors and mayors, saying their economic damage is worse than the disease. Echoing U.S. President Donald Trump, Bolsonaro has also pushed unproven anti-malarial drugs to treat the novel coronavirus.

But his most visible defiance has been going mask-less at a string of demonstrations in Brasilia, holding babies for photos and shaking hands with supporters.

Other officials have run afoul of the local mask rule. The country’s former education minister, who resigned last week, was fined 2,000 reais for not wearing a mask on the capital’s central boulevard earlier this month.

Reporting by Ricardo Brito and Eduardo Simoes; Additional reporting by Pedro Fonseca; Writing by Carolina Mandl and Jake Spring; Editing by Brad Haynes and Peter Cooney

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