RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – Brazilian broadcasters have pulled journalists off the job after they were exposed to President Jair Bolsonaro in an interview where he announced he had tested positive for the coronavirus, quarantining them until they test negative for the disease.
On Tuesday, Bolsonaro told a handful of television journalists at his official residence that he had tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Several held microphones in front of his chest, without the minimum 1-2 meters (3-6 feet) of distance advocated by medical experts to avoid contagion.
The right-wing president later in the interview backed away from reporters and removed his mask, saying he wanted to show his face as evidence he was doing well.
In separate emailed statements, CNN Brasil, Record TV and the state-run Brazil Communications Company (EBC) said they had taken their reporters off the job following the interview.
Record and EBC said their journalists would return to work only if they tested negative for the virus in coming days. CNN Brasil did not give details on the protocol for its journalists.
The journalists’ union for the Federal District, where Brasilia is located, called on media to suspend in-person coverage of Bolsonaro. The president has already canceled in-person appearances but will continue with videoconferences.
Bolsonaro has consistently sought to downplay the novel coronavirus pandemic, calling the virus a “little flu” and fighting state and city social-distancing measures that he calls too damaging for the economy.
The novel coronavirus has infected more than 1.6 million people in Brazil, and over 66,000 have died from the COVID-19 respiratory disease caused by the virus.
Bolsonaro on Wednesday said on Twitter he was doing “very well,” crediting his use of the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine – unproven for treating COVID-19 – for his mild symptoms.
(Reporting by Pedro Fonseca; Writing by Jake Spring; Editing by Leslie Adler)