BRASILIA (Reuters) – Brazilians overwhelmingly favor social distancing measures taken by state governors and advocated by Brazil’s health minister to fight the coronavirus epidemic, and disapprove of President Jair Bolsonaro’s handling of the public health crisis, a poll showed on Friday.
The government’s approval rating has fallen to 28%, the lowest since Bolsonaro took office last year, while its negative “bad and terrible” rating has risen to 42% of the people surveyed in the Ipespe/XP Investimentos poll.
Approval of governors who took steps to shut down businesses and public events and get people to stay at home jumped to 44% from 26% last month, while 69% of those polled said Health Minister Luis Henrique Mandetta is doing a good job.
Mandetta has insisted on the need to reinforce social distancing to help slow the spread of the highly contagious virus that has killed 300 people in Brazil in two weeks, contradicting the president and raising fears that Bolsonaro will fire him.
Bolsonaro has shocked health experts around the world by persistently playing down the gravity of the pandemic, calling COVID-19 “a little cold” exaggerated by the media and his opponents – even after his political idol U.S. President Donald Trump walked back his own skepticism about the outbreak. His stance has isolated him politically in Brazil.
Bolsonaro said on Friday that Brazilian society will not be able to stand two or three months of economic shutdowns to fight the coronavirus, denouncing social distancing measures enforced by states and municipalities across the country.
“You know my stance. It will bring massive unemployment,” he told supporters outside the presidential residence in Brasilia.
Friday’s poll confirmed that most Brazilians – 59% – agree with the governors, whom Bolsonaro has called “job-killers” due to the rising unemployment the economic standstill has brought.
The poll of 1,000 people was conducted by phone between March 30 and April 1. Its margin of error is 3.2 percentage points up or down.
Reporting by Lisandr and Eduardo Simoes; Writing by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Bill Berkrot