Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro said Monday he wants quarantines imposed by several state governors lifted this week, despite health ministry warnings that the coronavirus pandemic has yet to peak there.
"I hope that this is the last week of the quarantine, that way of fighting the virus with everyone in their home," the far-right leader told supporters outside his official residence in Brasilia.
"There is no way the people can stay at home, with the fridge empty!"
Bolsonaro has repeatedly criticized partial quarantine measures adopted by governors, including those in charge of the country's most populous states, Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, to halt the spread of the coronavirus.
On Friday, he sacked his health minister, who supported the restrictions that Bolsonaro says are damaging the economy.
"Those restrictive measures are excessive in some states, they haven't reached their objective. Approximately 70 percent of the population is going to be infected, there is no point in wanting to run away from it," the president said Monday.
Brazil, with a population of more than 210 million, has the most COVID-19 cases in Latin America -- more than 38,000 as of late Sunday, with more than 2,400 deaths.
Health officials estimate that the pandemic will reach its peak there between May and June.
Bolsonaro also Monday defended his appearance at a protest by around 600 people in Brasilia on Sunday calling on the army to intervene and Congress to be shut down.
His presence at the protest outside army headquarters drew widespread condemnation from Brazil's opposition parties and the judiciary, but the former army captain insisted that he "respects" the judiciary and legislature.
"But I have my opinion. It cannot be that whatever I say is interpreted as an assault, as an offense," he said.
"There is no reason to close anything here, there is democracy here, with an open Supreme Court, with an open Congress."
© 2020 AFP