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Brazil’s Health Minister Tests Positive for Covid at U.N.

todaySeptember 22, 2021 6

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Brazil’s health minister announced that he had tested positive for the coronavirus on Tuesday in New York, where he was attending the United Nations General Assembly along with the country’s defiantly unvaccinated president, Jair Bolsonaro.

The health minister, Marcelo Queiroga, tweeted that he would quarantine in the United States and was “following all health safety protocols.” It was not immediately known whether he was vaccinated.

Mr. Queiroga had accompanied Mr. Bolsonaro during his visit to New York for the U.N. meeting, and was seen on video shaking hands with Britain’s prime minister, Boris Johnson, when Mr. Johnson met Mr. Bolsonaro on Monday.

Mr. Bolsonaro’s handling of the pandemic in South America’s largest country has been widely criticized. He has repeatedly downplayed the threat the virus posed, and his government was slow to secure access to vaccines even as Covid-19 overwhelmed hospitals and killed more than 590,000 people in Brazil.

On Tuesday, Mr. Bolsonaro used his speech at the General Assembly to defend the use of ineffective drugs to treat the coronavirus and argued that doctors should have had more leeway in administering untested medications for Covid-19. The far-right president added that he had been among those who recovered after “off-label” treatment with a malaria drug that studies have found ineffective to treat the disease.

Mr. Bolsonaro, who had a mild case of Covid-19 in July of last year, has said he was in no hurry to get vaccinated, which made for an awkward exchange during his meeting with Mr. Johnson, who hailed the AstraZeneca vaccine, which was developed in Britain at Oxford University.

“Get AstraZeneca vaccines,” Mr. Johnson said. “I’ve had it twice.”

Mr. Bolsonaro pointed to himself and said: “Not yet.”

His unvaccinated status also created hurdles in New York, where restaurants require that patrons show proof of inoculation for indoor seating. On Sunday, one of Mr. Bolsonaro’s ministers posted a photo on Twitter of the president eating pizza while standing on the street alongside several top aides — including Mr. Queiroga.

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