Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro was pecked by a giant rhea bird while strolling through the grounds of his official residence, reports suggest.
The 65-year-old tested positive for Covid-19 last Tuesday, after coming down with a fever, and remains quarantined in the Palácio da Alvorada in Brazil.
While strolling through the grounds on Monday, Bolsonaro paused to feed a flock of rheas – flightless birds native to South America.
But their interaction quickly turned sour when one of the eager birds bit at his hand, local media reported.
Bolsonaro is said to be ‘fed up’ of being in quarantine and is hoping to return to work as soon as possible.
He also submitted to a fresh test on Monday in the hopes that it will come back negative.
Bolsonaro said he feels ‘very well’ and has not developed any of the typical coronavirus symptoms, such as fever, shortness of breath, or loss of smell or taste.
‘I don’t know if the new test will confirm, but if everything is fine, I’ll go back to work. Of course, if it’s the other way around, I’ll wait a few more days,’ he said.
He added that, whatever the result, he hoped to be back at work within a week.
After testing positive, Bolsonaro scrapped a trip he had planned to northeastern Piaui state, and all his meetings for the week were converted to video calls.
One was with former congressman Roberto Jefferson, president of the conservative PTB party.
Jefferson said he went to the presidential Planalto Palace and sat in front of a large television where he could see Bolsonaro in a makeshift office at his residence.
‘I found the president well, flushed, willing. In very good health,’ Jefferson said Saturday. ‘I only saw him cough once, when I made a joke.’
Since his diagnosis, Bolsonaro has held virtual meetings almost every day with Jorge Oliveira, secretary-general of government, to sign official documents. According to Oliveira’s office, a protocol was created so work could be carried out digitally.
By Wednesday, he said he was already doing very well, crediting his use of the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine – unproven for treating coronavirus – for his mild symptoms.
In the post on Wednesday he wrote: ‘To those who cheer against Hydroxychloroquine, but do not have alternatives, I regret to inform you that I am very well with its use and, with the grace of God, I will live for a long time to come.’
The post was part of a Twitter thread in which the president also defended his government’s handling of the pandemic.
He claimed his government provided payouts to informal sector labourers, thereby saving jobs and lives without spreading panic about the pandemic.
‘No country in the world did it like Brazil,’ Bolsonaro said.
Bolsonaro’s decision to champion the use of hydroxychloroquine had put him at odds with two successive health ministers, who both left their jobs in April and May.
Leandro Consentino, a political scientist at a Sao Paulo university, said Bolsonaro would ‘take advantage of the illness to advertise for chloroquine’.
‘He’s going down a path of trying to indicate to his base of support that Covid-19 is just a little flu’, Consentino said.
However, political scientist Mauricio Santoro of the State University of Rio de Janeiro said Bolsonaro’s infection was a ‘blow to his credibility’.
Brazil is the second-worst hit country by the global coronavirus pandemic after the United States.
On Tuesday, the Health Ministry registered 20,286 new confirmed cases of the disease, bringing the cumulative total cases to nearly 1.9 million, while more than 72,000 people have died from the virus in Brazil.
The Brazilian President has repeatedly played down the severity of the virus and mingled with crowds of supporters in spite of social distancing rules.
Bolsonaro, a former army captain, has previously said that his history as an athlete would protect him from the virus, and that it would be nothing more than a ‘little flu’.
The populist leader has often defied local guidelines to wear a mask in public, even after a judge ordered him to do so in late June.
The 60-year-old president – who has called the virus ‘the sniffles’ – has continued to head out to rallies and greet supporters by shaking their hands.
Asked on one occasion about the high death toll, Bolsonaro said: ‘So what? I’m sorry, but what do you want me to do?’
Over Easter he contradicted his own health ministry’s advice by going out to buy doughnuts.
‘No one will hinder my right to come and go,’ Bolsonaro said.
Bolsonaro has sacked two health ministers during the pandemic and repeatedly called for the country to reopen despite local administrations committing to keep their lockdowns in place.
The president has argued that the economic hardship caused by locking down the country is far graver than the disease itself.
‘People are going to die, I’m sorry,’ the president said in March. ‘But we can’t stop a car factory because there are traffic accidents.’
It comes as police officers have been removing sunbathers from Brazil’s iconic Copacobana beach as the country’s coronavirus death toll continues to spiral.
Beaches in tourist hot-spot Rio de Janeiro are open but the city has ruled that visitors can only use them for exercise and water sports in a bid to slow the spread of the killer virus.
Municipal police officers were pictured removing sunbathers who flout the rules.