Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro appeared to strongly criticize China by accusing it of creating COVID to spark a chemical 'warfare.'
The comments were made during a press conference Wednesday as the hardline leader sought to further distance himself from the growing attacks over his domestic handling of a pandemic that has produced the second-highest death toll in the world - at 414,399.
'It's a new virus. Nobody knows whether it was born in a laboratory or because a human ate some animal they shouldn't have,' Bolsonaro.
'But it is there. The military knows what chemical, bacteriological and radiological warfare. Are we not facing a new war? Which country has grown its GDP the most? I will not tell you.'
Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro said Wednesday that China created COVID-19 as a 'chemical, bacteriological and radiological warfare'
According to data from John Hopkins University, Brazil has generated 414,399 confirmed deaths – second to the United States. The South American nation has reported 14,930,183 cases, third behind the U.S. and India. Pictured above is the Nossa Senhora Aparecida cemetery in Manaus, Brazil, where victims of COVID-19 are buried
A women is vaccinated with the first dose of the Pfizer-Biontech COVID-19 vaccine on Sunday in Rio de Janeiro
While Bolsonaro did not name China in his speech, data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development showed that China was the only G20 member whose GDP showed a growth during the pandemic in 2020, expanding by 2.3%.
Throughout the pandemic Bolsonaro and his cabinet have made incendiary remarks over China and the coronavirus outbreak that as of Thursday had killed 3,245,153 people, according to John Hopkins University.
Brazil has generated 414,399 confirmed deaths – second to the United States. The South American nation has reported 14,930,183 cases, third behind the U.S. and India. In contrast, China has only reported 4,846 deaths and 102,573 cases.
Bolsonaro perhaps attempted to patch old wounds in March when he replaced former Foreign Minister Ernesto Araujo, who had denounced 'Maoist China' and its plan for 'world domination,' with career diplomat Carlos Franca.
Confirmed deaths and cases reported in Brazil from April 29 to May 5, according to data released by John Hopkins University. April 29- 3,001 deaths and 69,389 cases; April 30: 2,595/69,389; May 1: 2,656/66,964; May 2: 1,202/28,935; May 3: 983/24,619; May 4: 2,966/77,359; May 5: 2,811/73,295
The theory that COVID-19 emerged in a virology lab in the city of Wuhan is a touchy subject for China - but a favorite of hardline supporters of both Bolsonaro and his political role model, former United States president Donald Trump.
Rober Redfield, the former director for the Centers for Disease Control And Prevention under the Trump administration, told CNN in March that the coronavirus had advanced from the Wuhan Institute of Virology and the virus had spread throughout China for several months before the government detected it.
China and Dr. Anthony Fauci have denied the theory.
Rio de Janeiro's municipal Health Secretary Daniel Soranz (left) vaccinates a man with a first dose of the Pfizer-Biontech coronavirus vaccine in Rio de Janeiro on Tuesday. Brazil's Health Ministry received the first one million doses of the Pfizer-Biontech immunization shot that have been distributed amongst the main cities in the country
Paramedics take a couple from the ambulance to a hospital's emergency unit for treatment after they reported symptoms of the coronavirus on Monday
Workers bury a COVID-19 victim at the Nossa Senhora Aparecida Cemetery, in Manaus, Brazil, on March 1
A study released by the World Health Organization in March indicated that the transmission of the virus from bats to humans through another animal was the most likely scenario and that a lab leak was 'extremely unlikely.'
However, WHO experts said they had encountered difficulties accessing raw data when they visited Wuhan.
Throughout the press conference, Bolsonaro, who was infected with the virus in July 2020 and compared it to a 'little flu,' railed against those who questioned the use of the anti-malarial drug chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine as treatment methods against COVID-19.
The use of both drugs on patients sickened with the coronavirus has been unproven.
'A scoundrel is one who is against early treatment and has no alternative,' he said. 'This is a scoundrel. What I took (to treat COVID-19), everyone knows. I dare say that millions of people have had this treatment. Why is it against?'
Former Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta testified before the Senate on Tuesday and said that Bolsonaro had considered issuing a decree officially expanding the use chloroquine for COVID-19 patients in Brazil, though studies found it ineffective.
The government's insistent promotion of chloroquine and a less toxic version, hydroxychloroquine, is expected to be among the lawmakers' key lines of investigation.
Mandetta said he was called to a meeting in the presidential palace where he saw a draft of the decree on the table aimed at expanding chloroquine's use to include COVID-19 treatment. He said the president of Brazil's health regulator also was present and refused to get behind the decree.
'The only guidance on chloroquine that came from the (health) ministry was for compassionate use, when there was no other resource for critical patients,' said Mandetta, who was fired by Bolsonaro in April 2020. 'Our guidance was based on science. He (Bolsonaro) had parallel counseling.'