The advance of the coronavirus in Brazil begins to worry its neighbors

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A Manaus city funeral worker, wearing protective clothing, transports a coffin REUTERS / Bruno Kelly
A Manaus city funeral worker, wearing protective clothing, transports a coffin REUTERS / Bruno Kelly

The practically uncontrolled increase in cases of COVID-19 in Brazil fuels the fear that construction workers, truck drivers and tourists from the largest country in Latin America spread the disease in neighboring countries struggling to contain the pandemic.

Brazil, a huge nation that shares a border with almost all the others in South America, has confirmed more than 70,000 infections and more than 5,000 deaths, according to government data and the Johns Hopkins University count, far more than any of its neighbors. It is believed that the real data of infected and dead is much higher by the limited number of screening tests.

The country’s borders remain openThere are almost no quarantines or limitations, and its president, Jair Bolsonaro, continues to deny the severity of the pandemic.

The country of 211 million inhabitants surpassed China this week – the place where the outbreak began in December last year – in the official death toll from COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, which led Bolsonaro to say: “So what?”

“Sorry,” the far-right president told reporters. “What do you want me to do?”.

Jair Bolsonaro, Brazilian President (REUTERS / Ueslei Marcelino)

Jair Bolsonaro, Brazilian President (REUTERS / Ueslei Marcelino)

In Paraguay, the military forces that ensure compliance with the virus regulations they dug a shallow ditch next to the main entrance road to the city Pedro Pedro Caballero from the neighboring Brazilian city of Punta Porá, to restrict circulation.

Paraguay has less than 250 confirmed cases of coronavirus and its borders have been closed since March 24, with a reinforcement focused especially on that of Brazil.

Argentine officials say they are especially concerned about the transit of trucks from Brazil, their main trading partner. In the provinces that border the neighboring country, Argentina is working to establish safe corridors where Brazilian drivers can access bathrooms and unload their products without coming into contact with Argentines.

“I am very concerned about Brazil”, said the president of Argentina, Alberto Fernández, to local media on Saturday. “The provinces of Misiones and Corrientes are the entrance way for many transports that come from the San Pablo market and there the infectious focus is very high and the government is not taking things seriously as the case requires. I love the people of Brazil very much but I am concerned that this could be transferred to Argentina ”.

President Alberto Fernández in a hospital in Argentina

President Alberto Fernández in a hospital in Argentina

One of the eight infections registered in Misiones is that of a 61-year-old truck driver who apparently became ill in Sao Paulo and then returned to that province., where he died after infecting his wife. In Argentina there are around 4,000 confirmed cases and more than 200 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins count.

Even authorities in The United States, where there are already more than 1 million registered cases and the deaths are more than 60,000, have expressed their concern for Brazil.

Florida, which has a large population of Brazilian descent, could face the threat that passengers on flights from Brazil Bring the coronavirus to the state, Republican Governor Ron DeSantis said Tuesday to President Donald Trump.

“We could be away, doing well in Florida, and then have these kinds of people come,” said DeSantis.

The Governor explained that Trump’s decision to veto flights from China helped control the virus in the western United States, to which the president asked if this meant suspending them with Brazil. DeSantis responded that one of the possibilities was “not necessarily to suspend them” but to request that airlines test passengers before boarding flights to Florida.

Health workers caring for a patient in Florida with COVID-19 REUTERS / Marco Bello

Health workers caring for a patient in Florida with COVID-19 REUTERS / Marco Bello

The authorities in Colombia is also concerned, said Julián Fernández Niño, an epidemiologist at the National University in Bogotá.

“In a globalized world, the answer to the problem of the pandemic cannot be closed borders,” said Fernández Niño. The expert indicated that “Brazil is a country of great scientific development and economic capacity”, but its government maintains an “anti-scientific stance” regarding how the coronavirus fight should be.

In Uruguay, the president, Luis Lacalle Pou, pointed out that the spread of the virus in Brazil lit warning lights in his government.

Recently, several dozen Brazilian workers crossed the Uruguayan border town of Rio Branco to work in the construction of a cement factory. Four of them tested positive for the virus, which led Uruguay to quarantine the entire workforce.

Officials in some Uruguayan border cities have discussed the creation of “Humanitarian corridors” through which Brazilians can safely leave the country.

A municipal employee with protective equipment against COVID-19 disinfects a bus stop in Montevideo, Uruguay REUTERS / Mariana Greif

A municipal employee with protective equipment against COVID-19 disinfects a bus stop in Montevideo, Uruguay REUTERS / Mariana Greif

Even Venezuela, where the health system has collapsed for years, says it is concerned about the situation in Brazilian territory.

I ordered to reinforce all the protection of the border with Brazil, where the epidemiological, sanitary and military fence is guaranteed, “Nicolás Maduro told the state television channel last week.

The Bolivian government, an ally of Bolsonaro’s, declined to comment on its neighbor’s measures against the virus, but Defense Minister Fernando López promised this month to firmly implement the closure of the border.

“If we continue to be flexible at the border, the national quarantine will be useless,” he said.

By Almudena Calatrava and Michael Weissenstein for the Associated Press

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