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Mon Mar 23, 2020, 08:25 PM

Brazil's Bolsonaro walks back decree to suspend worker pay amid coronavirus

MARCH 23, 2020 / 8:40 AM / UPDATED 2 HOURS AGO

Maria Carolina Marcello, Ricardo Brito

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro was forced on Monday to walk back a decree letting companies suspend pay to workers amid the coronavirus pandemic, following barbs from congressional leaders and rising discontent over his handling of the crisis.

A poll showed Bolsonaro losing the battle of public opinion as he attacks state governors for shutting down stores to slow the spread of the virus, which has tripled in four days to 1,891 confirmed cases, according to the Health Ministry. Deaths rose to 34 from 25 a day earlier.

While Bolsonaro has played down the gravity of the outbreak, which he called a “fantasy” two weeks ago, state governments and federal lawmakers are calling for aggressive measures to slow contagion and support the economy.

Rodrigo Maia, speaker of the lower house of Congress, proposed on Monday that Brazil should spend between 300 billion and 400 billion reais ($58-78 billion) in emergency funds, creating a “war budget” under which ordinary fiscal rules do not apply.


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