Jair Bolsonaro
© Ueslei Marcelino / Reuters
Jair Bolsonaro
President Jair Bolsonaro said the novel coronavirus may have been made in a laboratory to wage "biological warfare", in the latest comments likely to strain Brazil's relations with China.

"It's a new virus. Nobody knows whether it was born in a laboratory or because a human ate some animal they shouldn't have," said the far-right leader.

"But the military knows all about chemical, biological and radiological warfare. Could we be fighting a new war? I wonder. Which country's GDP has grown the most?"

He did not name China, but the country where the pandemic began was the only G20 economy to grow last year, notching a 2.3 per cent expansion.

Comment: China didn't repeatedly enforce nonsensical national lockdowns, unlike much of Europe, it also already had a much stronger economy to start with.

Bolsonaro and his inner circle have a history of inflammatory comments on China that have sometimes aggravated relations with Brazil's biggest trading partner.

In March, the president replaced former foreign minister Ernesto Araujo, who had denounced "Maoist China" and its plan for "world domination", with career diplomat Carlos Franca.

Comment: No comment on the US and its actual attempt at world domination?

The move was widely seen as aimed at mending ties.

The theory that Covid-19 emerged in a virology lab in the city of Wuhan is a touchy subject for China - but a favourite of hardline supporters of both Bolsonaro and his political role model, former US president Donald Trump.

China strongly denies the theory.

A World Health Organization report concluded in March it was "extremely unlikely" the virus originated in a lab.

Comment: Meanwhile at least two other WHO officials and numerous other experts have explicitly stated that the coronavirus was likely cooked up in a lab; as does an award-winning scientist who cites 600 pieces of evidence.

However, WHO experts said they had encountered difficulties accessing raw data when they visited Wuhan.

Comment: China was at least cooperative, the US, rather suspiciously, denied them access completely.

Bolsonaro faces criticism and even a Senate inquiry over his response to Covid-19, which has claimed more than 414,000 lives in Brazil.

Brazil announced another 2,811 deaths on Wednesday as Bolsonaro upped his attacks on stay-at-home measures by local authorities to contain the virus. He threatened to issue a decree protecting people's "right to come and go".

Bolsonaro has fought calls from experts for national restrictive measures, arguing the economic damage would be worse than the virus itself.

Comment: He'd be right.

But Brazil's Supreme Court has given states and municipalities the right to implement such policies.

"I hope to God I won't have to issue that decree. But if I do, it will be carried out with all the force my ministers have," Bolsonaro said.

Comment: Meanwhile in Europe, Germany just snatched powers away from regional authorities forcing them to implement disastrous lockdown policies.

"And nobody had better dare challenge it."

In hard-hit Brazil, vaccine shortages have forced several large cities to suspend administering second doses of the Chinese-developed CoronaVac shot.

Bolsonaro said that US President Joe Biden would soon send doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to the South American country.

Comment: The US should have a load of the experimental vaccines going spare: Unused Covid vaccines piling up across US as those rejecting offer increase - Bloomberg

Earlier on Wednesday, a senior US administration official said that no decisions had been made on which countries would receive any extra vaccine supplies from the US.