In Brazil, exercising at the gym and getting a haircut are essential activities — so says President Jair Bolsonaro, who claims that Covid-19 is just a weak case of flu.
In a decree published in a special edition of the government gazette, Bolsonaro included gyms and hair salons on a list of “essential” businesses allowed to open in states and cities currently under lockdown due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“Because health is life, today I put gyms, beauty salons and barbers on the list of essential activities,” he told reporters late Monday.
The far-right Brazilian president believes that quarantine measures are ruinous for the economy and has dismissed the novel coronavirus as nothing more than a “weak case of the flu”.
The coronavirus has killed more than 11,500 people and sickened more than 168,000 in Brazil.
“Whoever is sedentary at home, for example, is increasing their cholesterol levels, their stress issues, and a whole lot of problems. But if they could go to a gym — logically in accordance with Health Ministry regulations — they will have a healthier life,” Bolsonaro said.
“It’s the same with the hair stylist and barber. And having one’s nails painted, and fixing up their hair, etc, is a matter of hygiene.”
More than one million people work in these industries, Bolsonaro said.
Health Minister Nelson Teich said he was not aware of Bolsonaro’s decree, but told reporters that issuing decrees was an “attribution of the president.”
He later said that such measures were under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Economy, but were in no way under the Health Ministry.
Bolsonaro’s decree, which also includes industrial activities and construction, may in the end have no practical effect: Brazil’s Supreme Court ruled last month that governors and mayors have the final say in how they counter the spread of the coronavirus.
Joao Doria, the mayor of Sao Paulo, Brazil’s most populous city with more than 12 million people, said Monday that some industrial and construction activities have already been going on in his state despite quarantine measures imposed since March 24.
“The economy’s enemy is not the quarantine, it’s the virus,” Doria said.
He reiterated that he would not buckle to pressure to change any lockdown rules.
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