BRASILIA, Dec 7 (Reuters) – Brazil will require that unvaccinated travelers entering the country go on a five-day quarantine followed by a COVID-19 test, its health minister said on Tuesday, after its president said he opposed the use of a vaccine passport.
President Jair Bolsonaro criticized Brazil’s health regulator Anvisa for proposing the vaccination passport be required for arriving travelers to help prevent the spread of new coronavirus variants.
“Anvisa wants to close the country’s airspace now. Not again, damn it,” Bolsonaro, a vaccine skeptic, said at a business event in Brasilia.
Health Minister Marcelo Queiroga, speaking after a Cabinet meeting later on Tuesday, said Brazil would not discriminate against people who are not vaccinated by adopting the passport.
He said, however, that Brazil will require unvaccinated travelers entering the country to quarantine and have a COVID-19 test. He did not give details on how that would be implemented.
Anvisa last month proposed adopting a “vaccination passport” for entry into Brazil, but the government has not yet decided on the matter. Bolsonaro has repeatedly attacked the proposal.
Vaccine skepticism from Bolsonaro, who says he has not gotten a COVID-19 shot, has done little to dampen Brazilians’ eagerness to get immunized, with more than 85% of adults now fully vaccinated.
The Supreme Court on Monday gave 48 hours for the executive branch to explain why the vaccination passport had not yet been adopted.
Last week, at the suggestion of Anvisa, the government suspended flights from six countries in southern Africa, where the new, fast-spreading Omicron variant of the coronavirus was identified.
Bolsonaro repeated his criticism of COVID-19 vaccines on Tuesday, saying vaccinated people can still be infected, spread the coronavirus and die from COVID-19. He also minimized the new variant, saying there are “thousands of viruses” and the pandemic was ending.
While much is still not known about Omicron, unvaccinated people account for the vast majority of severe COVID-19 cases and deaths.