BRASILIA/SAO PAULO (REUTERS) - Brazil on Wednesday (July 29) reopened international air travel to foreign tourists, which had been banned since March, even as the country's coronavirus outbreak ranks as the world's second worst.
Tourists from all countries can travel to Brazil as long as they have health insurance for the duration of their trip, the government said in a decree which did not explain the rationale for the decision.
Brazil, the country worst hit by Covid-19 after the United States, on Wednesday reported a record number of new deaths and confirmed cases.
Brazil is reopening its air borders faster than other countries in the region with less severe outbreaks, such as Colombia, Argentina, Panama and Peru which remain closed to international commercial flights.
Reuters reported the government's intention to allow international air travel earlier on Wednesday.
While tourists can now visit Brazil, many countries have not taken reciprocal action due to the severity of the outbreak. The United States and European Union, for example, are open for international travel but do not allow tourists from Brazil.
The country is hurtling toward the milestone of 100,000 deaths.
The 69,074 new confirmed cases and 1,595 additional deaths reported by the Health Ministry on Wednesday pushed the country past 2.5 million infections and 90,000 killed.
President Jair Bolsonaro has fought against restrictions on economic activity, and the disease has advanced as governors and mayors have yielded to the pressure. In some cases, Brazilians have packed into bars and crowded public squares without masks, often in defiance of local rules.
Last week, Brazil recorded 7,677 deaths from Covid-19, the most fatalities in any week since the pandemic began, defying repeated predictions that the outbreak had peaked.
"Brazil is experiencing the worst phase of the pandemic," said Alexandre Naime, head of the department of infectious diseases at Sao Paulo State University. "Paradoxically, public policy and personal behaviour are going in the opposite direction, as if we are not living through a daily tragedy," he added.