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Bolsonaro Calls June Critical Month for Coronavirus in Brazil

Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro puts on a mask during a press conference on the new coronavirus at the Planalto Presidential Palace in Brasilia, Brazil, March 18, 2019.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said Friday that June would likely be the most critical month for the coronavirus outbreak in the country, as he criticized state governors for taking extreme measures that were slowing the economy.

Brazil's two biggest cities, Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, and their surrounding states have moved to slow the outbreak by restricting gatherings at malls and beaches and in public transportation.

The epidemic represents a serious political risk for the far-right populist Bolsonaro, who has taken criticism for his early handling of the outbreak. He initially labeled it a "fantasy."

Approval of Bolsonaro's government fell to a record low this week, a poll released by brokerage XP Investimentos showed Friday. Just 30% of those surveyed rated his administration "good" or "great," compared with 36% calling it "bad" or "awful."

Bolsonaro, who was already struggling to resuscitate a weak economy, made clear on Friday that he was concerned about the economic impact of the virus, with Brazil's currency and stock market among the world's biggest losers over the past two weeks.

The president also looked to defuse a diplomatic spat with No. 1 trading partner China that began when his son, lawmaker Eduardo Bolsonaro, blasted the Asian country for how it handled the initial outbreak of the virus.

"There is no problem with China," Bolsonaro told reporters outside his official residence. He said he might reach out to China to get equipment for fighting the outbreak. "If I have to call the Chinese president, I'll call. No problem," he said.