Coronavirus: Trump bars travel from Brazil

President Donald Trump on Sunday further limited travel from the world’s coronavirus hotspots by denying entry to foreigners coming from Brazil, which is second to the U.S. in the number of confirmed cases.

Trump had already banned certain travelers from China, Europe, the United Kingdom and Ireland and, to a lesser extent, Iran. He has not moved to ban travel from Russia, which has the world’s third-highest caseload.

Trump had said last week that he was considering limiting travel from Brazil.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany cast the step announced Sunday as another “decisive action to protect our country” by Trump, whose management of the crisis has come under sharp scrutiny.

The U.S. leads the world with more than 1.6 million confirmed coronavirus cases and a death toll that is expected to surpass 100,000 later this week, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

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Brazil, now Latin America’s hardest-hit country, is second, with more than 347,000 cases and more than 22,000 deaths. Third on the list is Russia, with more than 344,000 reported cases and more than 3,500 deaths.

The White House is however yet to respond to queries about whether a travel ban would be imposed on Russia.

“Today’s action will help ensure foreign nationals who have been in Brazil do not become a source of additional infections in our country,” McEnany said.

Filipe Martins, who advises Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on international affairs, said the U.S. was treating Brazil as it had other populous countries and suggested the news media were overplaying Trump’s ban.

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“By temporarily banning the entry of Brazilians to the U.S., the American government is following previously established quantitative parameters that naturally reach a country as populous as ours,” Martins tweeted. “There isn’t anything specifically against Brazil. Ignore the hysteria from the press.”

Bolsonaro has downplayed the coronavirus by repeatedly calling it a “little flu” and insisting that closing businesses and issuing stay-at-home recommendations will ultimately cause more hardship by wrecking the economy. Bolsonaro fired his first health minister for going against him and backing restrictions put in place by Brazil’s governors. His second minister also resigned after openly breaking with Bolsonaro over widespread prescription of the antimalarial drug chloroquine for coronavirus treatment.

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Trump said in an interview broadcast in the U.S. on Sunday that he had completed a course of a related drug, hydroxychloroquine, as a line of defense against becoming infected.

Bolsonaro’s approach has mirrored that of Trump, who in the early days of the outbreak sought to downplay the severity and suggest the few cases that existed in the U.S. would “just disappear.” After agreeing to encourage Americans to practice social distancing, Trump began to say the “cure can’t be worse than the problem itself.” He has been aggressively pushing governors to allow businesses to reopen and traveling more himself.

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