U.S. President Donald Trump said he’s considering banning travel from Brazil as the country continues to break daily records in reported coronavirus cases and deaths.
Speaking to reporters at a cabinet meeting Tuesday, Trump said the U.S. is helping Brazil by supplying ventilators, but expressed concern over its rising numbers, which have surpassed 270,000 cases while closing in on 18,000 deaths.
“Brazil is having some trouble, no question about it,” Trump said.
“I don’t want people coming over here and infecting our people. I don’t want people over there sick either.”
Trump has used travel bans to try and limit the spread of COVID-19 to the U.S. before. He halted most travel from China at the end of January, and severely limited flights from Europe in March as the pandemic enveloped the continent.
The outbreaks in both eastern Asia and Europe have mostly slowed, however, while Latin America, South Asia and Russia have emerged as the newest hotspots.
Brazil‘s daily death toll from the new coronavirus jumped to a record 1,179 on Tuesday, erasing a previous record of 881 deaths over 24 hours announced on May 12. Overall, 17,983 people have died, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Brazil overtook Britain on Monday to become the country with the third-highest number of confirmed infections, behind the U.S. and Russia. Brazil‘s confirmed cases also jumped by a record 17,408 on Tuesday, for a total of 271,885 people who have tested positive for the virus.
President Jair Bolsonaro, an ideological ally of Trump, has been criticized for his handling of the outbreak, including his opposition to restrictions on movement he sees as too damaging to the economy.
Bolsonaro has joined protests against local governments that have ignored his orders for the economy to reopen, despite a majority of residents supporting the quarantines that are in place.
A poll last week showed two-thirds of Brazilians agree with the need for social distancing to contain the outbreak, which governors and health experts recommend, while Bolsonaro tries to open gyms, hair salons and other businesses.
Trump is calling for states to reopen their economies, including schools, against the advice of some top health officials within his government.
Bolsonaro promotes anti-malarial drug
In another move that echoed Trump, Bolsonaro doubled down on the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine as a possible remedy for the coronavirus, despite widespread medical studies warning of dangerous and even deadly side effects.
Bolsonaro said Interim Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello would issue new guidelines on Wednesday expanding the recommended use of hydroxychloroquine to treat the coronavirus, according to a Reuters report.
Two trained doctors have resigned as Health Minister in the past month as Bolsonaro defies public health expert advice. The second to leave, Nelson Teich, did so after Bolsonaro first ordered the hydroxychloroquine guidelines to be released, though Teich did not cite a reason for resigning.
According to Reuters, Bolsonaro told website Blog do Magno that Pazuello, an active-duty army general, would sign the new hydroxychloroquine guidelines and keep the top job for now.
The president added that his mother is 93 years old, and he keeps a box of hydroxychloroquine on hand should she need it.
Trump on Monday shocked the public and even his own staff by admitting he has been taking hydroxychloroquine as a preventive measure against COVID-19, after two White House staffers tested positive earlier this month.
He spent months earlier this year promoting the drug as a potential cure or preventive, despite the cautionary advice of many of his administration’s top medical professionals.
Bolsonaro said he had heard Trump had been taking the drug, according to Reuters.
No large, rigorous studies have found the drug safe or effective for preventing or treating COVID-19. In fact, many studies have found the opposite, with at least one in the U.S. concluding more patients died after taking the drug than those who didn’t.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned health professionals last month that hydroxychloroquine should not be used to treat COVID-19 outside hospital or research settings because of sometimes-fatal side effects, including abnormal heart rhythms. Health Canada issued a similar warning shortly afterwards.
—With files from Reuters and the Associated Press