The United States closes air borders to Brazil, leaving Bolsonaro more isolated.
The closure of air borders to Brazil is a clear indicator of how worrying the state of the pandemic is in the South American country.
In relation to other countries, limitations on flights from other parts of the world have been few in the United States. Borders were closed on March 11 for China, Iran and the Schengen countries, on the 16th for the United Kingdom and Ireland, on the 20th for Mexico and on the 21st for Canada.
For its two neighbors, the restriction made provision for essential travel, and those who travel daily from Canada to the United States for work were able to continue doing so.
However, on May 24, it was announced that the air borders would be closed to all flights from Brazil (whose number had already dropped considerably) due to the enormous growth of the COVID-19 pandemic in the South American country.
This restriction is to be expected as Brazil is, to date, the second country with the highest number of confirmed cases, even though the volume of tests carried out is much lower than what would be advisable given the size of its population.
In other words, despite the fact that Brazil has become the largest epicenter of the pandemic in Latin America, there is no data that allows us to know the extent of the virus.
Even so, the imposition of the restriction is read as a blow to the relationship between Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and President Donald Trump, with whom Bolsonaro has boasted of being very close and whom he has emulated since the arrival of the virus in Brazil was confirmed.
Since the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Brazil on 25 February, Bolsonaro has made numerous comments downplaying the seriousness of the disease, taking part in mass meetings without using any type of protection and in close contact with those attending, and confronting state governors to force the reopening of the economy.
Another common point has been to encourage the use of hydroxychloroquine for the treatment of patients with COVID-19 - although studies so far indicate that there may be a correlation between the use of this anti-malarial drug and the likelihood of a patient's death.
Unfortunately for Brazilians, they have not had the equivalent of a Dr. Fauci or Governor Andrew Cuomo to mobilize both public opinion and a more or less coordinated response from federal government agencies to contain the pandemic -- even though Congresswoman Tabata Amaral has managed to raise the alarm on multiple occasions.
In fact, the person who was attempting to do so, Henrique Mandetta - who was the health minister - was dismissed by Bolsonaro and his successor, Nelson Teich, resigned shortly before his first month in office.
Now, with the pandemic showing no signs of abating as the U.S. seeks to reopen the economy, the government has closed the doors to travelers from Brazil at the very real risk of contributing to a second wave. The caveat of White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany is that the restriction will not affect bilateral trade.
Even if it does not affect bilateral trade, what it does show is that relations between the two countries will not be determined solely by the affinity between their leaders and Bolsonaro risks becoming increasingly isolated in the region.