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U.S. may impose South American travel ban

The U.S. State Department said Wednesday it is considering an air travel ban for all South American countries with a decision coming within a matter of days. The statement followed remarks by Vice President Mike Pence who said the U.S. is especially concerned about the Covid-19 outbreak in Brazil that has claimed more than 18,000 lives.

A Covid-19 patient is treated at home in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

The State Department noted that the number of cases is growing rapidly in most South American countries, particularly in Brazil, Peru and Chile. “The trend line for the entire region is worrisome and we are monitoring it closely and are prepared to act to protect the health of U.S. citizens,” an official statement said. Peru has recorded more than 2,900 Covid-19 deaths, most of them in Lima, while Chile reports 544 but says many more may be uncounted.

Except for charter repatriation flights, there is currently no air travel between the U.S. and South America although the U.S. and several South American countries have said previously they hope to resume regularly scheduled flights in June.

It is possible that some South American countries could turn the tables and impose air travel restrictions on the U.S. Uruguay and Ecuador are considering such a move based on the high Covid-19 rate of infection in the U.S. “The U.S. is the world’s hotspot for the virus and rates in much of that country are still rising,” said a spokesman for the Uruguay foreign ministry. “We will take all the necessary precautions to maintain the health of Uruguayans, including banning travelers from countries with significant outbreaks of the coronavirus.”

The issue of travel bans in the short term is moot in at least two countries, Colombia and Argentina. Both governments have announced that they will allow no international flights, incoming or out-going, until September.