Brazil judge orders president Jair Bolsonaro to wear a mask due to Covid-19

A May 2020 photo shows Bolsonaro adjusts his mask in Brasilia, on May 13, 2020. PHOTO: REUTERS

BRASILIA/SAO PAULO (REUTERS) - A Brazilian judge ordered President Jair Bolsonaro to wear a mask in public after the right-wing populist attended political rallies without one in the middle of the world's second-worst coronavirus outbreak.

Federal Judge Renato Borelli ruled in a decision made public on Tuesday (June 23) that Bolsonaro was subject to a fine of 2,000 reais (S$540) a day if he continued to disobey a local ordinance in the federal district meant to slow the pandemic.

Brazil's solicitor general, which argues the government's legal interests, said in a statement that it was studying ways to reverse the decision.

Brazil has more confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths than anywhere outside the United States. The virus has killed more than 51,000 people in Brazil and infected more than 1.1 million, according to the Health Ministry.

That has made the country a prime location for vaccine trials, which began over the weekend for a candidate developed by Oxford University. Brazil's interim health minister said on Tuesday that the government would likely sign a deal this week to produce the university's trial vaccine locally.

On other fronts, Bolsonaro has openly defied the consensus among public health experts for slowing the outbreak.

The president has criticised lockdown and social-distancing orders issued by governors and mayors, saying their economic damage is worse than the disease. Echoing US President Donald Trump, Bolsonaro has also pushed unproven anti-malarial drugs to treat the novel coronavirus.

But his most visible defiance has been going mask-less at a string of demonstrations in Brasilia, holding babies for photos and shaking hands with supporters.

Other officials have run afoul of the local mask rule. The country's former education minister, who resigned last week, was fined 2,000 reais for not wearing a mask on the capital's central boulevard earlier this month.

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