Brazil's coronavirus skeptic President Bolsonaro must wear a mask or face fines

Bolsonaro constantly downplays the severity of the virus and criticizes prevention measures.

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By Nicole Acevedo

A Brazilian judge has ordered President Jair Bolsonaro to wear a mask in public after the right-wing populist attended political rallies without any face covering, according to a court decision made public on Tuesday.

Federal judge Renato Borelli said Bolsonaro is subject to a fine of 2,000 reais ($387) per day if he continues to disobey a federal district ordinance meant to slow the COVID-19 outbreak.

The decision comes days after the South American nation surpassed one million cases of coronavirus.

The World Health Organization reported the highest one-day increase in cases globally on Sunday and Brazil is among the nations grappling with a recent spike in coronavirus cases, alongside the United States and Germany.

Medical professionals in Brazil who have been struggling to treat the exponential surge of COVID-19 patients for months, despite the country's already fragile health care system, have widely criticized Bolsonaro for his very public skepticism of directives on social distancing, quarantining and the coronavirus pandemic's death toll.

Early in March, Bolsonaro dismissed the spread of the coronavirus as a media “fantasy,” and weeks later he described it as a “gripezinha” — the Portuguese word for a mild flu. Weeks later, Facebook and Twitter deleted one of his posts touting an unproven antiviral for the coronavirus. He has also constantly downplayed the severity of the virus and has explicitly criticized measures put in place by the vast majority of Brazil’s 26 state governors and his own federal health service.

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Reuters contributed.