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Judge orders Brazil's Bolsonaro to wear mask

The case was brought by a lawyer who said the president should be held to account for his 'irresponsible behaviour.'

FILE: In this file photo taken on 7 November 2018 Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro gestures as he delivers a joint press conference with Michel Temer after a meeting in Brasilia. Picture: AFP

BRASÍLIA - A federal judge in Brazil ordered President Jair Bolsonaro to wear a face mask in public, after the far-right leader repeatedly flouted the coronavirus containment measures in place in Brasilia.

Judge Renato Borelli ordered Bolsonaro, who has famously compared the new coronavirus to a "little flu," to stop ignoring the capital city's mask decree, or face a fine of 2,000 reals ($390).

"The president has a constitutional obligation to follow the laws in force in the country, as well as to promote the general welfare of the people, which means taking the necessary measures to protect citizens' right to health," the judge wrote in his ruling Monday.

The decision also applies to Bolsonaro's cabinet and staff.

The case was brought by a lawyer who said the president should be held to account for his "irresponsible behaviour."

Masks have been mandatory in public in Brasilia since April to curb the spread of the virus.

Bolsonaro regularly breaks the social distancing measures in place in the capital, giving handshakes and hugs at rallies by his supporters, hosting barbecues, hitting the shooting range and going out for hotdogs, generally without a mask.

His former education minister Abraham Weintraub was fined 2,000 reals last week for attending a pro-Bolsonaro rally in Brasilia without a mask.

Brazil has the second-highest COVID-19 death toll in the world, after the United States, at more than 51,000.