SANTA CRUZ, Bolivia—The ministers of Brazil’s Supreme Court are scheduled to vote on Dec. 16 to decide on whether to expand a coronavirus vaccine mandate for travelers entering the country to apply to Brazilian citizens returning home.
Federal Supreme Court (STF) Minister Luís Roberto Barroso ruled in favor of expanding the mandate on Dec. 11. The rest of the justices will decide whether to make Barroso’s temporary order permanent.
Under the current vaccine mandate, international travelers arriving in Brazil must quarantine for five days and subsequently test negative. Brazilian citizens are exempt. So are travelers with medical exemptions and travelers from countries with limited access to vaccines.
The expansion being considered by the court is a sharp contrast to President Jair Bolsonaro’s firm stance on medical freedom and the right to choose when it comes to vaccines. Just three days before Barroso’s ruling, Bolsonaro said he will never require the vaccine, comparing it to wearing a collar and saying, “I’d rather die than lose my freedom.”
On Monday, Bolsonaro’s government challenged the STF and filed a request for flexibility with the mandate via the attorney general’s office, which would require those entering the country without proof of vaccination to simply carry out the five-day quarantine.
President Bolsonaro, who had a confirmed case of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus last July, is one of the only world leaders to publicly decline the vaccine, comparing it to paying $5 to play a lottery where the prize is only $1.
“It just doesn’t make sense,” Bolsonaro has said.
However, minister Barroso disagrees with the proposed alternative, maintaining the country doesn’t have the resources to monitor thousands of quarantined visitors on a daily basis.
“The daily entry of thousands of travelers into the country, the approach of the end of the year festivities, pre-carnival events and the carnival itself, capable of attracting large numbers of tourists, and the threat of promoting anti-vaccine tourism, given the imprecision of the rules that require its proof, constitute an unequivocal imminent risk, which authorizes the granting of the injunction.”
In the same statement, Barroso circled back to emphasize that Brazil can’t afford to become a country that supports anti-vaccine tourism.
According to some residents, tourism can’t afford to take another hit.
“What’s wrong with just asking for a negative PCR test?” Rio de Janeiro local Fernanda Santos asked The Epoch Times.
Santos owns a guest house near the city’s famous Ipanema Beach and says, after a very slow recovery in the tourism sector, small business owners like her can’t afford to take another hit.
“I need this [tourist] season to be amazing. We all do.”
The nation’s tourism sector lost more than $69 billion between March 2020 and June of this year, according to a survey carried out by the National Confederation of Commerce of Goods, Services, and Tourism.
President of the Brazilian Federation of Accommodation and Food, Alexandre Sampaio, said, “Although vaccination is advancing, the emergence of new variants has made it difficult for tourists to return.”
Fears of the Omicron variant, the newest identified strain of the CCP virus, has spread, prompting 20 of Brazil’s 27 capitals to cancel their year-end events.
The CCP virus has killed 616,251 people in Brazil as of Dec. 15, according to the World Health Organization.
On Dec. 4, the mayor of Rio de Janeiro, Eduardo Paes, announced the suspension of the city’s famous New Year’s Eve celebration to reduce the anticipated holiday case spike. Paes admitted there were divergent opinions between scientific committees but decided to cancel the festivities because, as he said, “We respect science.”
In addition, 71 cities in the state of Sao Paulo have already canceled Carnival parties for February next year.
And Santos fears officials may do the same in Rio de Janeiro.
“They’d be taking away one of the biggest money-making holidays two years in a row,’ she lamented.
“And now tourists will have to be vaccinated. Just another obstacle,” Santos said.