Bolsonaro dismisses being labeled 'genocidal' as daily COVID-19 deaths in Brazil top 4,000

a close up of Jair Bolsonaro: President Jair Bolsonaro seen in Brasilia on May 13, 2020. President Jair Bolsonaro seen in Brasilia on May 13, 2020.
  • Bolsonaro sarcastically said people think he's "genocidal" due to Brazil's COVID-19 death toll.
  • Brazil recorded over 4,000 COVID-19 deaths within a 24-hour period for the first time on Tuesday.
  • The Brazilian president has repeatedly pushed against pandemic restrictions.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Tuesday continued to downplay the COVID-19 pandemic and push against calls for a lockdown as the country saw a record number of daily deaths from the virus.

"They called me homophobic, racist, fascist, a torturer and now... what is it now? Now I am ... someone who kills a lot of people? Genocidal. Now, I'm genocidal," Bolsonaro told supporters outside the Presidential Palace in Brasilia, per CNN. "What am I not blamed for here in Brazil?"

Brazil recorded over 4,000 COVID-19 deaths within a 24-hour period for the first time on Tuesday, pushing its death toll from the virus to nearly 337,000. Over 13 million people have tested positive for coronavirus in Brazil, making it the second-worst outbreak in the world, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

The US is the only country that's recorded more COVID-19 deaths - over 556,000 as of Wednesday - than Brazil. But the situation is so dire in Brazil that its death toll could eventually surpass the total number of deaths in the US, which has a larger population, experts told Reuters.

"It's a nuclear reactor that has set off a chain reaction and is out of control. It's a biological Fukushima," Miguel Nicolelis, a Brazilian doctor and professor at Duke University, said of the Brazilian outbreak. New variants of the virus have popped up in Brazil, including one that experts have said is more contagious.

In his remarks on Tuesday, Bolsonaro suggested that a lockdown would exacerbate Brazil's outbreak.

"I saw some recent research that those who have a healthy lifestyle are eight times less likely to have problems with Covid," Bolsonaro said. "You lock people at home ... what does he do at home? I doubt they haven't increased their weight a little from last year to this year."

The Brazilian president then quipped, "Even I grew my belly a little bit."

Bolsonaro reiterated his opposition to a lockdown on Wednesday.

"There will be no nationwide lockdown," he said, according to the Guardian. "Our army will not go out on to the streets to keep people in their homes. Freedom is priceless."

Bolsonaro, who has been criticized worldwide over his anti-science approach to the pandemic and authoritarian tendencies, also suggested that the media was exaggerating the threat of COVID-19.

"I can solve the problem with the virus in a few minutes. I just have to pay what governments paid in the past to Globo, to Folha [de São Paulo], O Estado de São Paulo," Bolsonaro said, referring to several major media outlets in Brazil. "Now, that money is not for the press, it's for other things."

Bolsonaro, much like other strongmen leaders, has repeatedly pushed against COVID-19 restrictions and public health recommendations. In early March, the Brazilian president told people to "stop whining" about the devastating outbreak in his country. Bolsonaro contracted COVID-19 last summer, and subsequently said he felt weak and had "mold" in his lungs.

Bolsonaro dismisses being labeled 'genocidal' as daily COVID-19 deaths in Brazil top 4,000