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Coronavirus: US suspends travel from Brazil for foreigners

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image copyrightAFP
image captionBrazil is the country with the second highest number of cases

The US has imposed travel restrictions on foreign nationals who have been to Brazil in the last 14 days.

The South American nation recently became the world's second major hotspot for coronavirus cases.

Brazil has recorded more than 360,000 cases, the country's health ministry announced on Sunday, while over 22,000 people have died with the virus.

A White House spokeswoman said the restrictions would help ensure new cases are not brought into the US.

"Today's action will help ensure foreign nationals who have been in Brazil do not become a source of additional infections in our country," White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in a statement.

Non-Americans who have been in Brazil in the two weeks before they request entry to the US will be denied that entry. The restriction will not affect trade between the two countries.

The suspension is to take effect on 28 May at 23:59 EDT (03:59 GMT).

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The travel ban will not apply to US citizens, or to the spouse, parent, legal guardian, or child of a US citizen or lawful permanent resident, and most siblings under the age of 21.

"The potential for undetected transmission of the virus by infected individuals seeking to enter the United States from [Brazil] threatens the security of our transportation system and infrastructure and the national security," said the suspension order published by the White House on Sunday.

Earlier on Sunday, White House National security adviser Robert O'Brien told CBS "Face the Nation" that travel restriction for Brazil were expected shortly.

"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," Mr O'Brien said.

media captionAerial footage of Latin America's biggest graveyard

He added that "we'll take a look at the other countries on a country-by-country basis for sure".

US President Donald Trump suggested earlier this week that he was considering imposing a ban on travel from Brazil.

The US currently leads the world in coronavirus cases. It has over 1.6 million known cases and is nearing 100,000 deaths linked to the virus.

Sunday's announcement is the latest travel restriction imposed by the US in a bid to combat the spread of the virus.

Foreign nationals who have recently visited China, Iran, the European Schengen area, the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland are already barred from entry to the US.

Canada and the US also recently agreed to extend the closure of their shared border to non-essential travel.

What is the situation across Brazil?

Brazil recently overtook Russia with regards to known cases of the virus. President Jair Bolsonaro has repeatedly dismissed the risks posed by the virus.

image copyrightEPA
image captionPresident Bolsonaro hugged a young child while meeting supporters on Sunday

The number of deaths in Brazil has been doubling roughly every two weeks, compared to about every two months in the UK, four months in France, and five months in Italy.

Experts have warned that the real figure may be far higher due to a lack of testing.

The rising death toll and infections in Brazil are clearly worrying the rest of the world, but President Jair Bolsonaro shows no signs of treating it seriously. On Sunday, he was out once again, mingling with hundreds of supporters in Brasilia - and once again he was not wearing a mask.

President Bolsonaro seems more caught up in fighting political battles - he's facing accusations of political interference to protect his family - than looking at how to rein in the country's spiralling health crisis. These past few days have revealed some ugly truths here. Not only has Brazil become one of the epicentres of the coronavirus crisis, but it's clear that the president and his team are unable - or even willing - to lead the country out of it.

There's no doubt this decision by President Trump, a man whom President Bolsonaro has always openly admired, will sting - but the question is, will it do anything to change the Brazilian leader's approach?

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