RIO DE JANEIRO / SAO PAULO:
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro questioned the death toll in Sao Paulo from the Corona virus outbreak on Friday and accused the governor of manipulating the numbers for political purposes without supporting his allegations.
Bolsonaro's allegations were the latest broadside in an ugly fight against Brazilian governors, who have been upset by the president's view that protecting business has priority over social distancing measures to combat the spread of the highly contagious virus.
On the advice of experts in public health, the vast majority of the country's 26 governors have banned non-essential commercial activities and public services to curb the outbreak in their states.
"I'm sorry, some people will die, they will die, that's life," said Bolsonaro in a television interview Friday night. "You can't stop a car factory because of traffic fatalities."
Bolsonaro said that the number of fatalities in the state of Sao Paulo, Brazil's economic powerhouse, was "too high". Sao Paulo has the largest number of coronavirus cases and deaths in Brazil, with 1,223 cases and 68 deaths.
"We have to see what happens there. This cannot be a numbers game to promote political interests," said Bolsonaro.
On Friday, the governor of Sao Paulo, Joao Doria, a former ally of Bolsonaro, whom many expect to be a rival in the 2022 presidential election, had accused Bolsonaro of promoting "disinformation" by launching a TV advertising campaign started with the slogan "#BrazilCannotStop". "
The slogan resembles a campaign in Milan before the deaths increased in Italy.
On Friday, the Brazilian Ministry of Justice prohibited all non-residents from entering its airports. The travel ban comes into effect on Monday and follows similar measures in several other South American countries.
Also on Friday, the Brazilian central bank, in line with the "quantitative easing" policy in other countries, called for the purchase of emergency bonds and presented a 40 billion reais credit line to help smaller companies with their payroll.
Economy Minister Paulo Guedes said the government will offer 45 billion reais to self-employed and informal workers, adding that all government measures to combat coronavirus will total 700 billion reais in three months.
Confirmed coronavirus cases in the country rose from 1,891 on Monday to 3,417 on Friday as the related deaths rose to 92, according to the Ministry of Health.
Bolsonaro's popularity has declined during the crisis, and many people across Brazil smash pots and pans in their windows every night to protest his handling of it.
In counter-protests on Friday, Bolsonaro supporters drove honking caravans through large cities to oppose the barriers and shared social media videos with the hashtag #BrazilCannotStop.
The television commercial, which was shared on social media by Bolsonaro's allies, including his son, Senator Flavio Bolsonaro, was commissioned by the President's office at a cost of 4.9 million reais ($ 1 million) without to consult the Ministry of Health, said two people with knowledge of the matter.
"Brazil cannot stop for the sellers in the neighborhood, for the shopkeepers in the city centers, for domestic workers, for millions of Brazilians," says the ad, which shows scenes of crowded classrooms and street markets.
The slogan is similar to #MilanWillNotStop, which became popular in northern Italy in February. Italy has become a global epicenter of the outbreak with more deaths than China.
The Mayor of Milan, Beppe Sala, said he regretted sharing the hashtag.
"Many referred to this video with the hashtag #MilanWillNotStop. It was a video that went viral on the Internet. Everyone shared it, I shared it, rightly or wrongly, probably wrongly," said Sala in one Television interview.
A Ministry of Health official told reporters that the Ministry would not comment on Bolsonaro, and the guidelines that recommend social distancing remained the same.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and published from a syndicated feed.)