President Donald Trump and his administration are currently considering a travel ban on Brazil after the South American country’s confirmed number of infections hit 275,000, the third-highest number of nationwide cases worldwide.
Brazil surpassed the United Kingdom on Monday to become the country with the third-highest number of confirmed cases, behind Russia and the United States. Tuesday saw the number of cases rise by a record 17,408 people, with over 275,000 now having tested positive for the virus.
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Trump admitted the country was “having some trouble” with coronavirus and a travel ban was under consideration.
“We are considering it,” he said. “We hope that we’re not going to have a problem. The governor of Florida is doing very, very well testing – in particular Florida, because a big majority come into Florida. Brazil has gone more or less ‘herd’ [immunity, an attempt to maximize exposure to the virus], and they’re having problems.”
“I don’t want people coming over here and infecting our people,” he added. “I don’t want people over there sick either.”
After nearly two months of quarantine, the United States is in the process of gradually reopening its economy after recording the highest number of cases worldwide. All 50 states have now begun easing lockdown measures in a bid to kickstart the American economy, which has shrunk at its fastest rate since the 2008 financial crisis.
The most severely affected region of Brazil is the city of São Paulo, where Mayor Bruno Covas warned this weekend that the healthcare system could soon be overwhelmed if people refuse to abide by social distancing guidelines.
“The city is coming to the limit of options,” Bruno Covas told journalists Sunday, warning that nine in ten intensive care beds were full. “We need to decide if we want to test the limits, or if we will be prudent and firmly maintain social isolation for the time needed so that the health system doesn’t collapse. We are closer than we would like.”
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro did not respond to Trump’s remarks when speaking to reporters on Wednesday, but he did confirm that Brazil’s Health Ministry would issue guidelines on the use of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for the coronavirus.
Bolsonaro has sharply divided public opinion with his response to the outbreak, having repeatedly downplayed its significance and warned of the potentially devastating economic impact of lockdown measures. He has sharply antagonized regional governors who have chosen to implement lockdown measures, inspiring crowds to take the streets and protest.
Bolsonaro’s resistance to coronavirus safety measures resulted in the expulsion last month of then-Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta on the grounds that Mandetta did not appreciate the importance of ending lockdown measures as soon as possible.