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US bans travel from new pandemic hotspot Brazil

US bans travel from new pandemic hotspot Brazil

AFP
Washington
The United States suspended travel from Brazil over an explosion of coronavirus infections in the South American nation, but across the Atlantic, many parts of Europe were set to further ease lockdowns on Monday after slowing their COVID-19 outbreaks.
The pandemic’s rampage across Latin America has pushed the worldwide caseload to nearly 5.4 million, with deaths approaching 350,000, but with the global economy battered, governments are scrambling to provide relief however they can to businesses and citizens wearying of mass confinement.
Brazil -- the world’s sixth-largest country -- has been declared the latest hotspot with more than 360,000 reported cases, second only to the United States, even as its leader, the far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, plays down the threat from the virus.
In a sign of global concern about the outbreak in Brazil, where more than 22,000 have died of COVID-19, the White House said on Sunday it would bar entry into the US of non-Americans who have been in the South American nation in the 14 days before.
Despite the crisis engulfing Brazil, Bolsonaro -- an ally of US President Donald Trump -- has repeatedly argued that lockdown measures are unnecessary and harmful to the economy.
He flouted social distancing rules again on Sunday, attending a rally outside the presidential palace in Brasilia to greet a cheering rally, ditching his face mask, shaking hands and embracing supporters - even hoisting a young boy onto his shoulders at one point.
The leader grinned as flag-waving supporters shouted “Legend!” and “The people support you, Bolsonaro!”
But despite the strong support from his political base, he has faced scathing criticism for his handling of the outbreak as experts warn Brazil’s healthcare system is overwhelmed.
And while his government has imposed a Brazil travel ban over the virus, President Trump remains frustrated with lockdown measures, and -- with 40 million jobs lost this year -- is aggressively pushing a US reopening despite the national death toll approaching 100,000.
Again trying to project confidence, Trump played golf for a second straight day on Sunday, after avoiding the fairways since March 8.
The polarised opinion on lockdowns in America was on display after video footage emerged of a jam-packed swimming pool in Missouri over the weekend, despite orders mandating social distancing measures.
“Scenes such as this one... are inconceivable during the pandemic. Do they all have death wishes?” one woman tweeted.
Another countered: “Just Americans being free and making their own decisions and enjoying life.”
The unprecedented crisis has in many cases worsened already fractured international ties and fuelled domestic political polarization.
Virus-fuelled tensions have pushed Beijing and Washington to the “bring of a new Cold War”, Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi warned Sunday, after Trump accused his government of a lack of transparency, and even pushed the theory that the coronavirus may have leaked from a Chinese laboratory.