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February 27, 2020

Brazil, Estonia confirm respective first coronavirus cases


Thu, Feb 27, 2020
A man wears a mask and face covering as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus as he rides a bike in a cycle lane in Beijing, China, February 27, 2020. AFP/Greg Baker

TALLINN/SAO PAULO: Estonia and Brazil confirmed their first cases of coronavirus on Thursday, after the  respective patients returned from a visit to Iran and from the Lombardy region of Italy.

Estonia reported its first coronavirus case on Thursday, a day after the man returned to the Baltic nation from a business trip in his homeland Iran, with Social Affairs Minister Tanel Kiik telling public broadcaster ERR that the citizen was currently hospitalised.

"The person, a permanent resident of Estonia who is not a citizen, arrived in Estonia on Wednesday evening," Kiik said.

Local media said the man contacted the health authorities himself after arriving in Tallinn by bus from the Latvian capital Riga, where he flew in from Istanbul.

"For now, there are no plans of putting cities in quarantine following this one case," Kiik said.

"The patient is isolated, there is no risk of the disease spreading, now we have to identify all the people the patient was in contact with."

Iran has announced a total of 19 deaths and more than 130 infections, including the country's deputy health minister.

Iran's coronavirus death toll is the highest after China, where more than 2,700 people have died from the disease.

Latin America's first case

Sao Paulo's stock exchange plummeted seven percent Wednesday over fears of the coronavirus after a local resident became the first such case recorded in Latin America.

The 61-year-old patient returned on February 21 from the Lombardy region of Italy, the epicentre of an outbreak in the European country, Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta said.

Mandetta said authorities were trying to identify people that had been in contact with the patient as well as his family members.

The man had visited a doctor complaining of flu symptoms. He has been placed in home isolation but is said to be "fine."

Sao Paulo is Brazil's largest city with 12 million inhabitants.

The stock exchange was closed on Monday and Tuesday due to the annual Carnival, while stocks around the world were tumbling.

Brazil's real dropped to a historic low of 4.421 to the dollar.

'It's a flue and we'll overcome it'

Another 20 cases are under investigation, said health ministry official Wanderson Kleber de Oliveira.

Twelve of those had travelled to Italy while one was in China, the origin of the outbreak.

Before confirming the case, Mandetta had spoken to CBN radio station downplaying the virus as a simple "flu."

"We need to stay calm. It's a flu and we'll overcome it," he said.

However, he added that it was a virus that appeared in a northern hemisphere winter and there was no way to predict how it would react to a southern hemisphere summer.

"It could be better, or worse," he said.

Coronavirus has killed over 2,700 people and infected more than 80,000, the vast majority in China.