President Jair Bolsonaro said Thursday he was against Brazil resuming carnival celebrations in February, a rare nod to Covid-19 social distancing measures from the far-right leader.
“As far as I’m concerned, we shouldn’t have carnival,” Bolsonaro, 66, said in an interview, as Brazil debates whether to go ahead with the festivities held from February 25 to March 1.
Carnival was canceled in Brazil this year because of the pandemic.
But authorities are considering allowing it to go ahead in 2022, given a sharp drop in the number of Covid-19 cases and deaths in Brazil.
Bolsonaro said he believed it was too soon, but that the decision was up to state and local authorities.
“I don’t want to get involved, because it could just cause another controversy,” he told radio network Sociedade.
“Last February, the pandemic was just arriving, we didn’t know much about it. I declared an emergency and the governors and mayors all ignored it. They went ahead with carnival. Then the consequences came, and people try to say I’m the one responsible.”
Bolsonaro appeared to be referring to a February 2020 bill passed by Congress declaring Covid-19 a public health emergency, which he signed into law.
He did not mention his more controversial handling of the virus, which he downplayed as a “little flu,” attacking stay-at-home measures, face masks and vaccines.
A Senate investigative commission last month said it had found evidence Bolsonaro committed 10 crimes in his pandemic response, including “crimes against humanity.”
Despite his anti-vaccine statements, hard-hit Brazil has massively scaled up its immunization campaign in recent months.
With more than 60 percent of Brazil’s 213 million people now fully vaccinated, the average daily Covid-19 death toll has fallen from more than 3,000 in April to around 200.