Brazil suffers record coronavirus deaths; Trump mulls travel ban

Gravediggers work in the Vila Formosa cemetery, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on May 18, 2020. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

RIO DE JANEIRO (REUTERS) - Brazil's daily death toll from the new coronavirus jumped to a record 1,179 on Tuesday (May 19) as US President Donald Trump said he is considering imposing a ban on travel from Brazil.

The highest daily toll before Tuesday had been 881 deaths on May 12. The pandemic has killed at least 17,971 people in Brazil, according to the Health Ministry.

Brazil overtook Britain on Monday to become the country with the third-highest number of confirmed infections, behind Russia and the United States. Brazil's confirmed cases also jumped by a record 17,408 on Tuesday, for a total of 271,628 people who have tested positive for the virus.

President Jair Bolsonaro, an ideological ally of Trump, has been widely criticised for his handling of the outbreak, such as opposition to restrictions on movement he sees as too damaging to the economy.

Bolsonaro said Interim Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello would issue new guidelines on Wednesday expanding the recommended use of the anti-malarial drug chloroquine to treat the coronavirus.

Health Minister Nelson Teich quit on Friday under pressure to sign the guidelines, making him the second trained doctor to leave the post in a month.

In an interview posted to the website Blog do Magno, Bolsonaro said Pazuello, an active duty army general who had been Teich's deputy, would sign the new chloroquine guidelines and keep the top job for now.

Bolsonaro added that his mother is 93 years old, and he keeps a box of chloroquine on hand should she need it.

Trump, who announced on Monday he was taking chloroquine preventively, told reporters on Tuesday: "I don't want people coming over here and infecting our people. I don't want people over there sick either. We're helping Brazil with ventilators ... Brazil is having some trouble, no question about it."

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.