© Reuters. Outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Niteroi
By Lisandra Paraguassu and Maria Carolina Marcello
BRASILIA (Reuters) – Brazilian governors urged President Jair Bolsonaro for more federal support in the coronavirus battle on Thursday after he blew her up as a job killer and undermined her orders with a decree that would keep the churches open at the request of evangelical preachers .
Bolsonaro has increasingly confirmed President Donald Trump's view that jobs should take precedence over restrictive measures to slow the outbreak, as world health experts suggest.
"This wave of panic and hysteria is bigger than the virus itself," he said on a live broadcast from Facebook (NASDAQ :).
But Bolsonaro campaigned for a subsidy for the poorest in Brazil on Thursday, which was passed by the lower Chamber of Congress later that day. The grant is for informal workers and small business owners and is 600 reais ($ 119.46) per month for three months. The bill is still subject to Senate approval.
The amount was a significant increase over previous versions of the bill. The executive had initially pushed for only 200 reais before Bolsonaro changed his proposal.
The Brazilian governors had argued in a public letter the previous Thursday that the federal government hadn't done enough to fund the fight against the virus that infected around half a million people worldwide.
According to the Ministry of Health, confirmed cases in Brazil had doubled to 2,915 on Thursday within four days. 78 people died of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus.
In the state of Rio de Janeiro, which relies on declining oil tax revenues to keep public services running, Governor Wilson Witzel said he may have to loosen an order to close businesses if the government doesn't offer help.
"People will only accept a prison sentence if they can eat. Managers will only interrupt their activities if they have funding conditions," Witzel told Reuters. "I can't ask people to get hungry."
The governors' letter listed eight proposed measures that Bolsonaro should take, such as suspending government payments to the federal government and helping states buy medical equipment.
Brazilian Economics Minister Paulo Guedes, a market-friendly economist who generally speaks out against government subsidies, was tested negative for coronavirus on Thursday.
Sao Paulo governor Joao Doria, who fought alongside Bolsonaro in 2018 but became one of his main critics during the public health crisis, said he expected concrete federal aid measures to be implemented within 72 hours.
Bolsonaro is under increasing pressure to deal with the outbreak that he originally referred to as "fantasy" and continues to be referred to as "little flu".
Throughout the cities, demonstrators have hit pans in near-night protests, and Bolsonaro's support has declined in opinion polls, with Brazilians clearly supporting the governors' response.
After beating up some governors over the "crime" of company closures during the outbreak on Wednesday, Bolsonaro undermined their efforts with a Thursday decree relieving churches of orders to close, responding to requests from evangelical leaders, an important constituency for the president.
In Sao Paulo, the most populous country in the country most affected by the epidemic, Doria recommended that the churches close their doors for 60 days.