Yet Bolsonaro said earlier this week he believed "the worst had passed" for the coronavirus pandemic, during a press conference outside the Alvorada presidential residence in Brasilia. But as the number of cases and deaths continue to climb, many health experts fear the worst is yet to come.Since Bolsonaro made the comment in Brasilia on Tuesday, there have been more than 20,000 new cases of coronavirus and the country registered 610 deaths on Thursday, nearly the highest toll yet in a 24-hour period, according to the Health Ministry.Health Minister Nelson Teich said Thursday that stricter lockdowns may be needed in some of the hardest-hit regions, during a video conference with members of the lower house of Congress.Former Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta said "the toughest months" are likely to be May and June, during an interview with TV Globo last month, four days before he was fired by Bolsonaro over disagreements on the country's coronavirus strategy.Warnings of a 'total collapse'Meanwhile, Bolsonaro continues to dismiss the threat coronavirus presents to the country's 209 million citizens, repeatedly saying he believes the effects of preventive measures, such as quarantines and lockdowns, could have a worse impact on Brazil's economy.During a speech at the Supreme Court on Thursday, Bolsonaro and Finance Minister Paulo Guedes said the economy could suffer a "total collapse" if the country doesn't reopen.
"The issue of unemployment, the issue of the economy no longer working. We can't let the side-effect of the fight against the virus be more harmful than the disease itself," Bolsonaro said.On March 24, Bolsonaro compared the coronavirus to a "little flu" in an address to the nation. Less than two months after that comment, there have been more than 132,000 new cases of Covid-19.It was followed by a series of controversial statements about the virus by Bolsonaro. "Brazilians don't catch anything ... they already have the antibodies to keep it from spreading," the President has said.He added again that Brazilians are likely to be immune to the coronavirus during a March 26 press conference outside the Alvorada presidential residence in Brasilia. "Brazilians should be studied, we don't catch anything. You see people jumping in sewage, diving in it and nothing happens to them," Bolsonaro said.
During the same press conference, Bolsonaro said he believed many Brazilians had already been infected but that those people already had "the antibodies that would help [coronavirus] not spread."The comments were made two weeks after Bolsonaro's press secretary Fabio Wajngarten and other Cabinet members tested positive for coronavirus, after traveling to the US and meeting with President Donald Trump in Mar-a-Lago.The World Health Organization said last month there was no evidence that people who have had Covid-19 will not get it a second time.Bolsonaro says he has been tested twice for coronavirus and both tests came back negative, according to posts on his personal Twitter and Facebook pages. Congressional leaders and a Federal judge are now asking the President to show evidence that the test came back negative, after he recently implied he may have contracted the virus without knowing it.