Judge orders Brazil's Bolsonaro to wear mask in public

Judge orders Brazil's Bolsonaro to wear mask in public
© SERGIO LIMA/AFP via Getty Images

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro must wear a face mask in public, a Brazilian federal judge ruled Tuesday, citing the laws enforced in the country and the general welfare of its people.

"The president has a constitutional obligation to follow the laws in force in the country, as well as to promote the general welfare of the people, which means taking the necessary measures to protect citizens' right to health," Judge Renato Borelli wrote, according to Agence France-Presse (AFP).

The judge ordered Bolsonaro’s Cabinet and staff to wear masks as well.

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Bolsonaro faces a fine of 2,000 reals, or about $390, if he does not comply with the order. Borelli issued the ruling after a lawyer sued over Bolsonaro’s failure to wear a mask, accusing him of “irresponsible behavior.”

Borelli added that the president “has exposed other people to the contagion of a disease that has caused national commotion,” according to The Associated Press.

Masks have been mandatory for the general public in Brazil’s federal district since April, but the president has frequently flouted social distancing orders, regularly hugging and shaking hands with supporters and visiting shooting ranges and restaurants without a mask. 

The ruling comes a week after Bolsonaro’s former education minister Abraham Weintraub was himself fined 2,000 reals for attending a Bolsonaro rally in the capital without a mask, according to AFP.

Bolsonaro has vocally minimized the danger of the virus, comparing it to “a little flu,” even as South America’s largest country becomes a global hot spot for COVID-19, with a total of about 1.12 million cases and more than 52,000 deaths, the second-highest death toll in the world after the U.S.

Twitter and Facebook have both deleted a post he wrote promoting the use of chloroquine phosphate, which has not been proved as a treatment for the virus.

The ruling comes after a separate order that required Bolsonaro’s administration to publish the results of three coronavirus tests he took in early March, according to the AP. The results of the tests were negative despite earlier reports that he had tested positive for the virus.