The president of Brazil Jair Bolsonaro called for the reopening of the nation's borders on Friday, as he takes a step forward to restart the largest economy of South America while accepting that he may be blamed if the coronavirus or COVID-19 outbreak worsens due to his decision.
The president of the South American nation fired his health minister on Thursday after having a clash with him regarding the lockdown measures, as Bolsonaro argues that it is damaging the economy a lot and should be rolled back.
Bolsonaro wants to lift Coronavirus lockdown
But the right-wing populist conceded on Friday that it is not up to him to decide whether or not social distancing measures should be relaxed in states and cities after the supreme court ruled that governors and mayors are responsible for the decisions. The borders, however, are Bolsonaro's to control. He said on Friday he had discussed the possibility of reopening land borders, particularly those with Uruguay and Paraguay, with Justice Minister Sergio Moro.
"Opening trade is a risk that I take, because if (the outbreak) gets worse, it will fall on my lap," Bolsonaro said at the inauguration event for his new health minister, Nelson Teich. To slow the spread of the virus, Brazil closed its borders last month to nonresident foreigners, with some exceptions, although cargo shipments largely still flow freely.
Brazil withdrew all its remaining diplomatic staff from Venezuela
Brazil withdrew all its remaining diplomatic staff from Venezuela on Friday, after the order to remove them was given by Bolsonaro, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. The country's foreign trade chamber Camex on Friday also eliminated import taxes on an additional 141 types of medical products and hospital equipment, raising to 313 the number of products with zeroed tariffs to help fight the coronavirus epidemic.
Medical experts say the outbreak of the coronavirus is still far from its peak in Brazil as cases and deaths, already the highest in Latin America, continue to rise sharply. Brazil has 33,682 confirmed cases, with some 200 fatalities per day in the last four consecutive days, bringing the death toll to 2,141 as of Friday, according to Health Ministry data.
Sao Paulo Governor Joao Doria, who has clashed with Bolsonaro over lockdown measures, on Friday extended the social isolation order in the state through May 10. But there have been signs in recent weeks that lockdowns could be getting more lax, with a Sao Paulo government analysis of mobile phone data finding that as of Thursday only 49 percent of people were in social isolation.
Incoming Health Minister Teich said that the outbreak could be complicated in coming months when the dengue and influenza season hits.
(With agency inputs)