Latin America & Caribbean

Coronavirus: Second Brazilian governor tests positive

Helder Barbalho in December 2016 Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Helder Barbalho said he did not have any symptoms but had tested positive

The governor of the northern Brazilian state of Pará, Helder Barbalho, says he has tested positive for coronavirus.

He tweeted the news shortly after the Rio state Governor Wilson Witzel said that he had contracted the virus.

They called on people to respect the restrictions of movement imposed by their states to curb the spread of the virus.

The lockdown has been criticised by President Jair Bolsonaro, who says the outbreak has been exaggerated.

"I ask you once again to stay at home. As everyone can tell, the disease doesn't make exceptions for anyone and the contagion is fast," Governor Witzel said in a message he posted on Twitter.

Mr Witzel said he had the symptoms associated with coronavirus such as fever, sore throat and loss of smell but that he would continue working for the people of his state.

The governor and President Bolsonaro have clashed over their different approaches to the pandemic.

The president has compared the virus to "a little flu" and panned social distancing measures, arguing they wreck Brazil's economy.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Some have balked at the restrictions imposed in Rio

Mr Witzel said the president's defiance of guidelines from the United Nations and World Health Organization could be considered a "crime against humanity".

Mr Bolsonaro in turn accused the governor of acting like a dictator when Mr Witzel ordered Rio's popular beaches to close ahead of the Easter holidays.

"Beaches are outdoors. There's no problem going there at all," the president said on 2 April.

While the northern state of Pará has not been as badly affected as Rio, Governor Barbalho, also had a clear message for the residents. Wearing a face mask he said: "Those who love, care, and those who care, stay at home."

There are more than 25,000 confirmed cases in Brazil but a study published on Monday by a number of Brazilian universities and institutes suggests that the country is likely to have 12 times more cases of coronavirus than the number being reported by the government.

It estimated that only 8% of cases are being officially reported.

On Sunday, Rio's Christ the Redeemer statue was illuminated in a tribute to the healthcare workers fighting the pandemic.

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Media captionCoronavirus: Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio illuminated as doctor

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