Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro announced on Thursday, March 19, that the government will be closing all of the country's land borders with Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Suriname, Guyana, and French Guiana for two weeks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). The country had earlier closed its border with Venezuela on Tuesday, March 17, but has not closed its border with Uruguay. The restrictions do not apply to Brazilian nationals or foreigners residing in the country, while trucks carrying essential goods and people on humanitarian missions will continue to be allowed entry. In addition, travelers from the European Union, Britain, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, and Malaysia will be prohibited from entering the country for 30 days, except for Brazilian residents and individuals who have valid work or family reasons to travel. Authorities have also closed the country's famous Copacabana and Ipanema beaches as a precautionary measure.
As of Thursday, March 19, the Ministry of Health has confirmed 621 cases of the virus in Brazil, including six fatalities. Further international spread of the virus is expected in the near term.
The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (Hubei province, China). Human-to-human and patient-to-medical staff transmission of the virus have been confirmed. Many of the associated fatalities have been due to pneumonia caused by the virus.
Cases of the virus have been confirmed in numerous countries and territories worldwide. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the global outbreak a pandemic. Pneumonia symptoms include dry cough, chest pain, fever, and trouble breathing.
Pneumonia can be contagious and can be transmitted from human to human. The influenza virus, or the flu, is a common cause of viral pneumonia.
Measures adopted by local authorities evolve quickly, and are usually effective immediately. Depending on the evolution of the outbreak in other countries, authorities are likely to modify, at very short notice, the list of countries whose travelers are subject to border control measures or entry restrictions upon their arrival to the territory in question. It is advised to postpone nonessential travel due to the risk that travelers may be refused entry or be subject to quarantine upon their arrival or during their stay.
To reduce the risk of transmission, travelers are advised to abide by the following measures:
- Frequently clean hands by applying an alcohol-based hand rub or washing with soap and water.
- When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue; if used, throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands.
- If experiencing a fever, cough, difficulty breathing, or any other symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness, including pneumonia, call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to prevent the potential spread of the disease.