The president of Brazil is among the many heads of state visiting New York City this week.But his arrival caused a bit of a stir due to his unvaccinated status.
Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio had a back and forth these past few days. Bolsonaro said he would be the last Brazilian to ever get the shot, and de Blasio made clear Bolsonaro wouldn’t be able to attend the U.N. Assembly if he’s not vaccinated. In the end, Bolsonaro attended and was the opening speaker, as it’s tradition for Brazil to kick off the event.
New York City is requiring proof of vaccination for most indoor settings. The United Nations headquarters, however, lies in international territory.
Last year, the U.N. agreed to follow New York City guidelines when it comes to containing COVID-19. But just recently, the U.N. secretary general said he cannot tell a head of state that he can’t enter the U.N. just because he’s not vaccinated.
Now, Bolsonaro attended the assembly without problems, but one incident did raise eyebrows. Brazil’s minister of tourism posted a picture of them eating pizza outside a New York City establishment, leading people to think they weren’t allowed inside because Bolsonaro isn’t vaccinated.
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Some are criticizing Bolsonaro for not being vaccinated and for not locking Brazil down during the pandemic. The country, with over 200 million people, has not seen a single major lockdown since the start of the pandemic.
In a recent interview, he explained his decision.
“I said we have two problems we have to face: the virus, which can kill, and also unemployment, which can also kill,” said Bolsonaro.
He says Brazil is a rather poor country, and if people don’t go to work, they can’t eat.
According to Johns Hopkins, Brazil has one of the highest numbers of COVID-19 deaths per 100,000 people. But its neighbor Argentina has almost the same numbers—and Argentina has been under lockdowns ever since the pandemic started.
To deal with the dangers of COVID-19, Bolsonaro believes in early treatment for the virus.
“I have come to the conclusion, together with many doctors, that if used early, hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin can help to prevent or cure COVID,” Bolsonaro said.
He added that his antibody levels remain high because he had the virus before, so he has no need to get the shot.