President Donald Trump on Sunday further limited travel from the world's coronavirus hotspots by denying entry to foreigners coming from Brazil, which is second to the U.S. in the number of confirmed cases.
Trump had already banned certain travelers from China, Europe, the United Kingdom and Ireland and, to a lesser extent, Iran. He has not moved to ban travel from Russia, which has the world's third-highest caseload.
Trump had said last week that he was considering limiting travel from Brazil.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany cast the step announced Sunday as another “decisive action to protect our country” by Trump, whose management of the crisis has come under sharp scrutiny.
The U.S. leads the world with more than 1.6 million confirmed coronavirus cases, and a death toll that is expected to surpass 100,000 later this week, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
Brazil, now Latin America's hardest-hit country, is second, with more than 347,000 cases and more than 22,000 deaths. Third on the list is Russia, with more than 344,000 reported cases and more than 3,500 deaths.
“Today's action will help ensure foreign nationals who have been in Brazil do not become a source of additional infections in our country,” McEnany said.
Filipe Martins, who advises Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on international affairs, said the U.S. was treating Brazil as it had other populous countries and suggested the news media were overplaying Trump's ban.
“By temporarily banning the entry of Brazilians to the U.S., the American government is following previously established quantitative parameters that naturally reach a country as populous as ours," Martins tweeted. "There isn’t anything specifically against Brazil. Ignore the hysteria from the press.”
The ban on travel from Brazil takes effect late Thursday. As with the other bans, it does not apply to legal permanent residents. A spouse, parent or child of a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident also would be allowed to enter the country. The restrictions also do not apply to trade between the U.S. and Brazil.
Earlier Sunday, Robert O'Brien, the U.S. national security adviser, had said an announcement was likely.
“We're concerned about the people of the Southern Hemisphere and certainly the people of Brazil. They’re having a rough go of it,” he said on CBS' “Face the Nation.” He said the travel ban would likely 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.
Data from Brazil’s civil aviation agency shows there has already been a sharp reduction in U.S.-bound flights from the South American country. There were more than 700 flights from Brazil to the U.S. in February of this year, with the number dropping to just 140 in April, two months later.
There were more than 700 flights to the U.S. from Brazil in April 2019, the data shows.