Even during normal times, politicians thrive on overconfidence. As coronavirus has spread all over the world, that smugness has been on full display. In Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro urged citizens to defy social distancing measures and claimed without evidence that Brazilians “never catch anything,” even if they take a dunk in raw sewage. In Belarus, president Alexander Lukashenko boldly declared that no one in his country would die from COVID-19, even as his own ministry of health had already reported deaths from the disease.
But the virus has also elicited a rare phenomenon: politicians publicly changing course. From Iran to Italy, the United States to the United Kingdom, leader after leader dismissed the advice of health experts and downplayed the risks—until the virus delivered a dose of reality.
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