The Brazilian health minister, Marcelo Queiroga, has tested positive for Covid and gone into isolation, 24 hours after meeting with a maskless Boris Johnson and other British officials in New York.
Queiroga, who sat close to Johnson and the foreign secretary, Liz Truss, on Monday during their meeting with Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, announced his positive test on Twitter on Tuesday night.
Soon after, the Brazilian news website Metrópoles reported that Brazil had decided to abort its participation in the UN general assembly as a result of what was the second confirmed case of Covid in its delegation.
Queiroga, 55, a cardiologist, was filmed shaking hands with Johnson and patting the prime minister on the arm during Monday’s gathering at the consulate general’s house in New York.
Despite the fact that Bolsonaro publicly claims not to have been vaccinated against Covid, Johnson, Truss and other members of the British delegation were not wearing masks for the encounter, although Queiroga, who sat opposite the British politicians on a sofa, was using one.
Hours after the meeting, Queiroga was caught on camera making obscene hand gestures to Brazilian protesters who had taken to the streets of New York to denounce Bolsonaro’s anti-scientific handling of a Covid outbreak that has killed nearly 600,000 Brazilians.
The following day, Queiroga, who was reportedly staying at the same hotel as the US president, Joe Biden, was at the headquarters of the United Nations for the opening session of its general assembly. He reportedly also took part in meetings with the UN secretary, António Guterres, and Poland’s president, Andrzej Duda.
Bolsonaro, who has dismissed Covid as a “little flu”, used his speech to the assembly to attack lockdown and isolation measures, which he falsely claimed caused inflation, and to tout ineffective and potentially harmful coronavirus “remedies” known in Brazil as “early treatment”.
“We do not understand why many countries – along with a large part of the media – opposed ‘early treatment’,” Brazil’s far-right leader told world leaders, announcing that he himself had taken such drugs, which include the antimalarial hydroxychloroquine and the antiparasitic ivermectin.
Bolsonaro’s former health minister, Luiz Henrique Mandetta, goaded Queiroga after his announcement on Tuesday, asking: “Is he going to undergo ‘early treatment’?”
After meeting Queiroga and Bolsonaro, Johnson travelled to Washington to meet with Biden on Tuesday. Pictures showed both leaders wearing face masks for that encounter in the Oval Office of the White House.