South American country emerges as new coronavirus hotspot after steep rise in cases

The move triggered an argument over local lockdowns enforces to stop the spread of the deadly virus. Mr Bolsonaro’s latest guidance on Monday saw the list of businesses considered “essential” widen.

The announcement was made from his perspective that the damage caused by lockdown measures is worse than the risks presented by the virus.

The move came even as the death toll in Brazil continues to rise.

Latin America’s largest country reported a record 881 deaths on Tuesday.

Brazil is largely expected to surpass the number of cases in Germany and France to become the world’s sixth-hardest-hit country by Tuesday.

The president previously faced backlash over his blasé attitude towards the global pandemic that is infecting millions.

“I don’t do miracles,” said Mr Bolsonaro, in response to questions regarding the number of coronavirus infections in the Brazil surpassing China’s.

Speaking outside his home on Tuesday, Mr Bolsonaro said, “What do you want me to do?”

“I am Messias (his full name is Jair Messias Bolsonaro), but I don’t do miracles,” he said.

Previously, the country’s leader had referred the virus as a “little flu”.

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The Brazilian Supreme Court has previously ruled that state and local governments have the authority to impose lockdowns and shutter businesses amid pandemic fears.

However, Mr Bolsonaro defied the decree by using his powers to appoint several types of establishments as ”essential” so they can still open despite the lockdowns.

At least 10 governors have said they will not comply by his latest rule allowing that gyms, beauty salons, industrial production and civil construction to reopen due to their essential status.

“Governors who do not agree with the decree can file lawsuits in court,” Mr Bolsonaro wrote on social media.

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Alternatively, the governors can call on Congress to change the law, the president wrote.

“Bolsonaro is walking toward the precipice and wants to take all of us with him,” Rio de Janeiro’s Governor Wilson Witzel said on Twitter.

Sources told Reuters the government is expected to cut down its economic predictions and project a more than 4 percent contraction in gross domestic product (GDP) for 2020, down from the flat growth previously forecast.

In contrast, neighbouring Argentina was quick to implement a lockdown which has so far proven successful in flattening the curve of infection, despite the damaged caused to its economy.

“You can recover from a drop in the GDP,” Argentine president Alberto Fernández has said about his choice to impose an early lockdown. “But you can’t recover from death.”

Argentina’s current figures show only 6,550 confirmed cases and 319 deaths, compared to Brazil’s nearly 179,000 cases and over 12,00 deaths.

Mr Bolsonaro’s popularity has rapidly dropped since the pandemic began in Brazil.

Figures released on Tuesday showed that 43 percent of Brazilians thought he was doing a “bad or terrible” job, up from 31 percent in January.

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