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Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro speaks during a news conference at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil, on March 31. 
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro speaks during a news conference at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil, on March 31.  Andressa Anholete/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has shrugged off criticisms that he is “genocidal” in his opposition to Covid-19 restrictions, as the nation recorded its deadliest 24 hours of the pandemic so far.

Brazil reported a record 4,195 new Covid-19 deaths, the latest health ministry data on Tuesday showed. The new figures increased the country’s total pandemic death toll to 336,947.

Bolsonaro, who has continued to downplay the seriousness of his country’s health crisis, brushed off claims he was to blame for the country’s spiraling death toll. The President has repeatedly opposed lockdowns and restrictive measures, and criticized governors and mayors with insulting language for implementing them.

“They called me homophobic, racist, fascist, a torturer and now … what is it now? Now I am… someone who kills a lot of people? Genocidal! Now, I’m genocidal,” he said to supporters outside the Presidential Palace in Brasilia on Tuesday evening, according to video posted on YouTube.

Several of Bolsonaro’s political opponents have accused him of “genocide,” using the term loosely to characterize the consequences of his Covid-19 response.

“What am I not blamed for here in Brazil?” he asked rhetorically in the video.

The Brazilian leader also seemed to suggest the pandemic was an invention of the media that could be solved by providing outlets with government subsidies.

“I can solve the problem with the virus in a few minutes. I just have to pay what governments paid in the past to Globo, to Folha [de São Paulo], O Estado de São Paulo,” he said, referring to a nationwide broadcaster and two São Paulo-based newspapers“Now, that money is not for the press, it’s for other things.”

Bolsonaro then reiterated his anti-restrictions stance, arguing — incorrectly — that the states where tougher measures have been imposed are experiencing higher death tolls.

“What’s the state that has locked down the most? São Paulo. Which one has the highest death toll, proportionally? São Paulo,” he falsely claimed.

Although São Paulo has the highest absolute death toll, it ranks 10th in deaths per capita. 

Bolsonaro also said locking down would be counterproductive, as people would be more vulnerable to the virus. 

“I saw some recent research that those who have a healthy lifestyle are eight times less likely to have problems with Covid,” he said. “You lock people at home… what does he do at home? I doubt they haven’t increased their weight a little, from last year to this year.”

“Even I grew my belly a little bit,” he joked.

Cases continue to spiral in Brazil: Tuesday saw Brazil record its deadliest day of the pandemic so far. Additionally, 86,979 new Covid-19 cases were reported across the country, raising the tally of infections to 13,100,580, according to the health ministry.

Global Covid-19 cases have risen for the sixth consecutive week, according to the World Health Organization’s Weekly Epidemiological Update on Tuesday.

Brazil, along with the US, Turkey and France followed India in the highest number of new Covid-19 cases reported globally. 

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Bolsonaro shrugs off criticism he is 'genocidal' as Brazil reports record 4,000 daily deaths