A new U.S. ban on travelers from Brazil goes into effect Tuesday, two days earlier than the White House initially announced, in an added effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Officials did not provide any specific reasons for moving up the ban from its planned Thursday start date.
It applies to foreigners entering the United States who have been in Brazil at some point during the prior 14 days. Health officials say it may take two to 14 days before symptoms appear in someone who contracts COVID-19.
Brazil has emerged as a new coronavirus hot spot, trailing only the United States in the number of confirmed cases, according to Johns Hopkins University statistics.
The Brazilian health ministry said Monday that COVID-19 killed 807 people in the previous 24 hours. The one-day U.S. death toll was 620.
The White House said the travel ban “will help ensure foreign nationals who have been in Brazil do not become a source of additional infections in our country.”
U.S. President Donald Trump has similar travel bans in place on China, Iran, Britain, Ireland, and the 26 countries in Europe’s Schengen area.
Seriousness of virus downplayed
Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro has for months played down the seriousness of the coronavirus, urging businesses to reopen and dismissing many social distancing recommendations.
He has brushed off the virus as nothing more than “a little flu” and says a wrecked economy will kill more people than the illness. He has called Brazilians worried about the coronavirus neurotic.
WHO halts hydroxychloroquine trials
The head of the World Health Organization said Monday the agency is pausing the use of hydroxychloroquine in its trials to find effective treatments for the coronavirus while experts review its safety.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus cited a study published last week in the medical journal Lancet in which the authors reported an estimated higher mortality rate among coronavirus patients who received the drug.
Tedros stressed the drug is “accepted as generally safe for use in patients with autoimmune diseases or malaria.”
WHO emergencies chief, Dr. Michael Ryan, said there have been no problems with the drug in WHO trials so far, but that the pause was being done out of an abundance of caution.
Trump has touted hydroxychloroquine as an effective coronavirus treatment and claims he has been taking it even though he has not tested positive for the virus.
Saudi Arabia to ease lockdown
Saudi Arabia is set to relax some of its lockdown orders on Sunday, including lifting bans on domestic travel, holding prayers in mosques and dining in restaurants and cafes.
A statement posted by the state news agency Tuesday said all restrictions will end June 21, except for the city of Mecca. Saudi Arabia has reported about 75,000 confirmed cases.
Chile reported a record daily high of 4,895 new cases. Public Works Minister Alfredo Moreno announced on Twitter that he was among those who have tested positive, though he said he has so far had no symptoms.
In Indonesia, soldiers and police are enforcing rules on wearing masks and social distancing. The country reported Tuesday its total number of confirmed cases had risen to 23,165 with 1,418 deaths.
Britain eyes reopening outdoor markets
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced plans to reopen outdoor markets on June 1, with all shops allowed to operate again June 15. He said it is important for the easing of restrictions to be carried out in a way “that does not risk a second wave of the virus.”