- The new restrictions are meant to help ensure that foreign nationals do not bring further infection to the United States.
- The United States and Brazil are currently numbers one and two, in terms of coronavirus cases.
- Robert O’Brien, a national security adviser to the White House, told CBS on Sunday that he hopes Brazil’s entry ban is temporary.
US President Donald Trump has imposed a ban on people entering the US from Brazil. The measure prohibits all foreigners from entering the United States if they have been in Brazil over the past two weeks. US citizens are, however, exempt from the ban. White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany made the announcement on Sunday.
She elaborated that the new restrictions are meant to help ensure that foreign nationals do not bring further infection to the United States. The United States and Brazil are currently numbers one and two, in terms of coronavirus cases.
Over 365,000 cases have been confirmed in Brazil, and nearly 23,000 Brazilians have died. In the United States, those numbers are nearly 1.7 million cases and over 99,000 deaths.
The World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday declared South America a “new epicenter” of the coronavirus pandemic. “We’ve seen many South American countries with increasing numbers of cases and clearly there’s a concern across many of those countries, but certainly the most affected is Brazil at this point,” Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s emergencies program, said during a press conference from the agency’s Geneva headquarters. “In a sense, South America has become a new epicenter for the disease,” he said.
Brazil has one of the lowest test rates in the world, and scientists predict that the real number of infections may actually be sky-high at this point in time. President Jair Bolsonaro is on record having always downplayed the seriousness of the pandemic. He has, on several occasions, described COVID-19 as a “little flu,” and in a way appeared to be condemning the “hysteria” around the disease.
In the absence of national guidelines, individual cities and states have had to issue separate sets of measures in a bid to combat its spread. Almost all of Brazil’s 27 states are in some form of a shutdown.
So far, two Brazilian health ministers have resigned or been fired in the last month, in protest against or opposition to Bolsonaro’s rather casual approach in regard to the epidemic. The nation’s first health minister to leave was Luiz Mandetta, who was fired on April 16. Mandetta opposed both Bolsonaro’s promotion of hydroxychloroquine and his fight against state governments’ social distancing orders.
He was succeeded by Nelson Teich, who also called it quits just a few weeks on the job. Teich lost the confidence of President Bolsonaro, who criticized him as being too naive in the push to reopen the economy. He too refused to advocate the use of anti-malarial drugs to fight the virus. His impromptu resignation added turmoil in the Bolsonaro administration’s handling of an accelerating coronavirus outbreak in one of the world’s worst hot spots.
Robert O’Brien, a national security adviser to the White House, told CBS on Sunday that he hopes Brazil’s entry ban is temporary. “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,” he said. O’Brien adds that the United States will consider imposing similar restrictions on other countries in the southern hemisphere “on a country-by-country basis.”