Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro
Brazil's President Bolsonaro Tests Positive For Coronavirus Photo by Andressa Anholete/Getty Images

Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro is dismissing travel measures despite the country’s health regulator, Anvisa, recommending a shutdown of Brazil’s borders to travelers arriving from six southern African countries due to threats of the new Omicron Covid variant. Chief of staff to Bolsonaro Ciro Nogueira told Friday that the government will close its aerial borders starting Monday.

According to Al Jazeera, the recommendation from Anvisa would still need the government’s approval. Measures would include an immediate suspension of flights from several countries namely, South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Namibia, Zimbabwe, and Lesotho.

Before Anvisa’s statement, Bolsonaro expressed his opinion on the restrictions saying closing the borders made no sense. “What madness is this?” the President told his supporters after he was asked if travel restrictions would be implemented. “The virus doesn’t come in if you close the airport. It is already here,” Bolsonaro added.

He addressed journalists saying he was considering taking rational measures related to the threat from the new variant, however emphasizing he was against severe restrictions. "Brazil can't handle another lockdown. There's no use getting terrified," he said.

With more than 60% of Brazil’s population now fully vaccinated, some semblance of normalcy has returned to the beaches of Rio de Janeiro. Samba schools in the city have kicked up their heels and gears for the much-awaited carnival celebrations said to be back on the streets in February after celebrations were canceled last year.

However, the new Omicron variant, B.1.1.529, has already raised fears with the UK Health Security Agency on its resistance to the current vaccines or how current vaccines and boosters will work against it. Brazil’s Health Ministry said that although the Omicron variant seems to pose a potential threat, its epidemiological impact is still not clear.

Meanwhile, Anvisa announced that foreigners who have traveled to at least one of the six red-listed African countries in the past 14 days should not be allowed entry into Brazil. Returning Brazilian citizens from the said countries, would be required to subject themselves to quarantine.

Several countries around the globe including the European Union, Britain, and the United States have also announced restricted border entries. The WHO on the other hand cautioned countries in hastily imposing such travel curbs and recommended a “risk-based and scientific approach” to the variant threat.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro speaks during the Presentation of Food Donation Program at Planalto Palace on November 11, 2021 in Brasilia, Brazil. The program Comida no Prato aims to connect companies who want to donate food with institutions that are able to receive them for distribution to those in need. The levels of poverty and hunger grew in Brazil in 2020 and 2021, fueled by the effects of the pandemic. Photo by Andressa Anholete/Getty Images

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