The White House has announced a ban on travel to the United States from Brazil due to the spread of coronavirus in Latin America’s hardest-hit country.
Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in a statement on Sunday evening that the ban applies to all foreign nationals who have been in Brazil in the 14 days before heading to the US.
McEnany cast it as a move by US President Donald Trump “to protect our country”. Trump warned last week that he was considering restrictions on Brazil.
The president has already banned travel from the United Kingdom, Europe and China, all of which have been hit hard by the virus. The US has the world’s highest number of cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, and has recorded nearly 100,000 deaths.
Blow to Bolsonaro
The travel ban was a blow to right-wing Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who has shadowed Trump in his approach to the pandemic, fighting calls for social distancing and touting unproven drugs. The Brazilian president’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
“The US maintains a strong partnership with Brazil and we work closely to mitigate the socioeconomic and health impacts of COVID-19 in Brazil,” the US Embassy in Brasilia said in a statement.
The new restrictions come into force on May 28, the embassy said.
Green card holders, close relatives of US citizens and flight crew members, among select others, would be exempt.
Brazil’s foreign ministry called it a technical decision in the context of “important bilateral collaboration” to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, highlighting US donations of $6.5m and a new White House promise of 1,000 respirators.
McEnany further explained that the new restrictions would help ensure foreign nationals do not bring additional infections to the US, but would not apply to the flow of commerce between the two countries.
US National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien earlier on Sunday told CBS television network’s Face the Nation programme that he hoped the move could be reconsidered at some point.
“We hope that’ll be temporary, but because of the situation in Brazil, we’re going to take every step necessary to protect the American people,” O’Brien said.
An adviser to Brazil’s president played down Trump’s move, highlighting shared views on fighting the virus with unproven anti-malarial drugs such as hydroxychloroquine.
“There is nothing specific against Brazil,” tweeted Filipe Martins, an adviser on international affairs to Bolsonaro.
Two hours earlier, he wrote that Trump had “opened a direct line for the exchange of information about the protocol for using hydroxychloroquine and other treatments for the virus”.
The US Food and Drug Administration warned last month about using the drug to treat COVID-19, citing “reports of serious heart rhythm problems” in patients receiving the medicine.
Bolsonaro’s insistence on the drug’s potential and defiance of state isolation orders pushed out two health ministers in a month, both trained doctors.
The acting head of the Ministry of Health, an army general, issued guidelines this week to expand the use of the drug in coronavirus cases.
Brazil has reported more than 363,000 COVID-19 cases, second only to the US, according to a Johns Hopkins University count.
Brazil also has recorded more than 22,000 deaths, the fifth-highest in the world.