Salem Radio Network News Saturday, January 29, 2022


Brazil health regulator calls for Africa travel restrictions, Bolsonaro dismissive

By Gabriel Araujo and Lisandra Paraguassu

SAO PAULO/BRASILIA (Reuters) -Brazilian health regulator Anvisa recommended on Friday that travel be restricted from some African countries due to the detection of a new COVID-19 variant, but President Jair Bolsonaro appeared to dismiss such measures.

Anvisa said its recommendation, which would need government approval to be implemented, was to immediately suspend flights from South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Namibia and Zimbabwe.

The EU and Britain are already tightening border controls as researchers look into whether the new mutation is vaccine-resistant.

Brazil’s Health Ministry said in a separate note that the new B.1.1.529 variant poses a potential future threat, but that its epidemiological impact is unclear at the moment.

The ministry reiterated its recommendations on social distancing and the use of masks, but did not mention any new travel restrictions.

Before the Anvisa statement on Friday, Bolsonaro told supporters it made little sense to close borders.

“What madness is this?” Bolsonaro said when asked if travel would be restricted. “The virus doesn’t come in if you close the airport. It is already here.”

Bolsonaro has been widely criticized by public health experts for his management of the pandemic, railing against lockdowns, often refusing to wear a mask in public and choosing not to get vaccinated. Brazil has the world’s second-highest death toll from the virus, behind only the United States.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has cautioned countries against hastily imposing travel restrictions due to the variant, saying they should take a “risk-based and scientific approach”.

In its technical note, Anvisa said that foreigners who have been to at least one of the six African countries cited in the prior 14 days should not be allowed to land in Brazil, while Brazilians arriving from those nations should be required to quarantine.

The health agency said “the new variant appears to have a higher transmissibility.”

Anvisa President Antonio Barra Torres told news channel GloboNews that travel restrictions are a necessary preventive measure and that he expected the government to make a decision as soon as possible.

The news of the variant hammered travel stocks in Brazil, with shares in airlines Gol and Azul plunging about 13%, while travel operator CVC posted a 12% fall and planemaker Embraer was down 10%.

(Reporting by Gabriel Araujo in Sao Paulo and Lisandra Paraguassu in BrasiliaAdditional reporting by Eduardo Simoes in Sao PauloWriting by Stephen EisenhammerEditing by Brad Haynes and Alistair Bell)


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