Brazil leader wants to end social distancing even as cases soar past 3,400

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Brazil on Friday barred all non-resident foreigners from entering the country via its airports to slow the spread of the coronavirus, but President Jair Bolsonaro urged Brazilians to return to work instead of practicing social distancing.

The justice ministry’s travel ban, published in Brazil’s official gazette, goes into effect on Monday and follows similar measures in several other South American nations.

Brazil’s inconsistent response to the coronavirus outbreak has triggered an ugly dispute between the president and state governors.

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Ignoring the pleas of public health experts, Bolsonaro said he wants to keep the economy running, scoffing at the “hysteria” surrounding a virus he calls “a little flu.” He is angry at governors and mayors who have brought states like Sao Paulo and Rio to a near-standstill to contain the outbreak.

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On Friday, Bolsonaro launched a “#BrazilCannotStop” television ad, featuring a slogan similar to a campaign in Milan before deaths in Italy soared.

“For the neighborhood salesmen, for the shop owners in city centers, for domestic employees, for millions of Brazilians, Brazil cannot stop,” said the ad, which shows scenes of crowded classrooms and street markets.

The TV advertisement, shared on social media by Bolsonaro allies including his son, Senator Flavio Bolsonaro, was commissioned by the president’s office at a cost of 4.9 million reais ($1 million) without consulting the Health Ministry, according to two people with knowledge of the matter.

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