Donald Trump (left) speaks with Jair Bolsonaro during a dinner at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, US. AFP
The White House on Sunday said it was restricting travel from Brazil to the United States, two days after the South American nation became the world's No. 2 hotspot for coronavirus cases.
The travel ban was a blow to right-wing Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who has followed the example of US President Donald Trump in addressing 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, prohibiting most non-US citizens from traveling to the United States if they have been in Brazil in the last two weeks. 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 $6.5 million and a new White House promise of 1,000 respirators.
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the new restrictions would help ensure foreign nationals do not bring additional infections to the United States, but would not apply to the flow of commerce between the two countries.
National security adviser Robert O'Brien earlier on Sunday told CBS' "Face the Nation" 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 advisor 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 advisor 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 the COVID-19 respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus, 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 Health Ministry, an army general, issued guidelines this week to expand use of the drug in coronavirus cases.Reuters
Brazil has reported more than 34,000 deaths from the virus so far, meaning it surpassed the amount in Italy and trails only the UK and US Experts consider the tally a significant undercount due to insufficient testing.
Brought forward by Trump at the outdoor briefing, Fauci said his projection of a potential 100,000 to 200,000 deaths is "entirely conceivable" if not enough is done to mitigate the crisis.
In a grim new milestones marking the spread of the virus, total deaths across the United States hit 3,017, including at least 540 on Monday, and the reported cases climbed to more than 163,000, according to a Reuters tally.
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