Mandatory hotel quarantine described as ‘logical’ by Brazilian diplomat
‘We support measures that are taken with a view to combat or to stall the contamination’
César Leite, counsellor of the embassy of Brazil in Ireland: “The situation in Brazil is very complex” and the country is “suffering a lot from the spread of the virus”. Photograph: Alan Betson
Ireland’s decision to impose mandatory hotel quarantine for people travelling from Brazil has been described as “logical” given the serious situation with Covid-19 there.
The remarks were made by César Leite, head of the Brazilian embassy’s consular affairs section.
He said the matter is at the “sole discretion” of the Irish Government, and added: “We support measures that are taken with a view to combat or to stall the contamination.”
Some EU countries have raised concern at the short notice they were given about their inclusion on the list of “high-risk countries” and sought clarification on the reasons why they were so categorised.
But Mr Leite stressed the “courtesy” shown by the Department of Foreign Affairs, which informed the embassy a week before Brazil’s inclusion as one of the first countries on the list.
He said “the situation in Brazil is very complex” and it is “suffering a lot from the spread of the virus”, and “so we do understand there are some tough measures that have to be taken”.
The pandemic has hit Brazil hard with more than 360,000 deaths including more than 4,000 in one day for the first time last week, as well as the rise of the P1 variant which is highly transmissible.
The death toll is second only to the United States. President Jair Bolsonaro has also had a highly controversial approach to the pandemic, opposing lockdown measures for fear they will damage the economy.
Mr Bolsonaro has described the virus as the “little flu” and last month told citizens to stop “whining”.
Former president Dilma Rouseff last week told the Guardian she agreed with critics who claim Mr Bolsonaro’s actions amount to “genocide”.
Mr Leite says Ms Rouseff is a member of the Brazilian opposition and “they will always criticise no matter what”, while also noting that she was impeached in 2016.
Bolsonaro’s ‘good actions’
He also said that Mr Bolsonaro’s “good actions” are not reported, pointing to the federal government’s offer of 48 million vaccines to support the local programme in Brazil’s states.
Asked it if is difficult to defend the president, given how his approach to the pandemic differs so strongly from that of other leaders, Mr Leite said: “As a diplomat, we do not defend a president. We defend the country.”
Mr Leite puts the death toll in Brazil in the context of its population of more than 210 million people and says that Brazil is 14th in the world in terms of the number of those infected per million people.
He also said Brazil is to begin producing vaccines and has already inoculated 32 million people, which he said was faster that the speed of the rollout in European countries.
The embassy has had inquiries from people wishing to travel to Ireland from Brazil asking if they could be exempt from hotel quarantine.
He said the embassy explains the situation and what the consequences of an “unwise decision” would be. Mr Leite said: “When a Brazilian wishes to come to Ireland. If they have the money, enough resources to pay for the hotel. It’s fine, they will do this.
“If they don’t have [the money for quarantine], in the long run, they will become a hindrance to Brazil because they will be unassisted or in a dire situation and we will have to look after them.”