Brazil reinstates face mask requirement as country refuses to emerge from health crisis

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Three months after scrapping mandatory masks, Brazil is stepping back and reinstating the controversial traveler requirement. Being one of the few destinations that have not yet fully reopened their borders, the country has repeatedly refused to emerge from the health crisis despite high vaccination rates and low mortality in recent months.

Historical statue in Rio de Janeiro wearing a face mask, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

While South America remained largely open for tourism and business throughout 2020, once vaccination began, the region switched places with Europe and North America adopting some of the anti -Covid toughest yet. Yet to this day, Americans face vaccination discrimination when traveling to Brazil and the majority of its neighboring countries.

Unfortunately, the threat of a new wave of Covid has led the country’s lawmakers to tighten the edges once again:

Americans must again wear face masks to travel to Brazil

Bathers wearing face masks in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil during the Covid pandemic

Brazil has a vaccination rate of well over 80%higher than many developed countries in the northern hemisphere, and a much more controlled epidemiological curve, but it does not stop Anvisathe National Health Surveillance Agency, to issue new emergency decrees – or showing reluctance to join others in declaring a endemic phase.

Anvisa is the Brazilian equivalent of the CDC, and alongside the Ministry of Health, they have been tasked with guiding the government on science-based decision-making throughout the crisis. As reported by G1health officials reissued a mask mandate this week in light of a new surge, which has pushed the death toll up from last week.

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Commuters wearing face masks in the Sao Paulo metro during the Covid pandemic, Sao Paulo, Brazil

On November 22, the average weekly death rate was 65, up 43% from the previous seven days. Although the current numbers represent only a small fraction of previous waves that hit Brazil, specifically Omicron and its sub-variants, cases and deaths are nevertheless increasing, and Anvisa chose to act quickly this time.

Brazil continues to target air travelers

Passengers depicted in a commercial aircraft, air travel

Fearing that cases are spiraling out of control amid World Cup celebrations, Anvisa took the precautionary step of requiring face masks at airports and on planes a second time. From November 25Americans traveling to Rio de Janeiro or Sao Paulo will be required to wear an appropriate face mask when boarding the plane, as well as upon arrival at their port of entry.

Mr. Antonio Barra Torres, president of the health entity, insinuated that it was a joint decision between Anvisa and other specialists in the field, such as the Brazilian Society of Infectious Diseases (SBI in Portuguese) and the National Council of Health Secretaries (bitch). That much, air passengers seem to be their main target.

Woman with luggage at the airport

The written mandate has yet to be released as of this writing, but based on the information provided, the ruling only applies to air travel. Naturally, different Brazilian states have the autonomy to incorporate, expand or completely ignore certain decisions, just like the autonomous states of the United States.

The above requirement is for all of Brazil, but mask rules in other settings may vary by destination. In the state of Minas Gerais, face coverings are now obligatory on all public transport, including taxis; on the other hand, some municipalities in the state of Rio have reissued mask mandates only for hospitals.

In general, tourists can expect mask rules to become widespread across Brazil once the new edict is issued.

Man with face mask in hand at the beach

Brazil’s borders are still closed for normal tourism

In terms of borders, Brazil has one of the strictest entry regimes in South America right away. Unvaccinated Americans are still subject to pre-departure testsunlike their vaccinated counterparts, who are allowed to enter the country without restriction upon presentation of their vaccination card.

Colonial style buildings in the historic old town of Salvador de Bahia, Bahia, northeastern Brazil, Latin America

Indeed, visitors must meet one of the conditions below to be able to travel:

  • Present a two-dose vaccination certificate; or
  • A negative PCR or rapid antigen test.

In Latin America at large, choice for unvaccinated Americans wary of restrictions include Argentina, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Mexico. In these four countries, face masks are a relic of the past, and border officials do not expect visitors to be vaccinated or medically screened before arrival, regardless of fluctuating cases.

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