Rio de Janeiro (AFP)

The coronavirus arrived in Latin America, a vast continent so far spared from the epidemic, by entering it through Brazil, where a first case of contamination was confirmed on Wednesday on a patient from Sao Paulo (Southeast) who stayed in Italy.

"We have confirmation of a positive case," said Brazilian Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta about the 61-year-old Brazilian who spent almost two weeks in Lombardy, in northern Italy, who has become a important source of spread.

The news immediately brought down the Sao Paulo stock market, which lost 5.03% in mid-session on Wednesday.

Largest country in Latin America with 210 million inhabitants, Brazil borders almost 15,000 km with ten countries in the region: Uruguay, Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname and France with Guyanne.

This continent-country also completes this week a long period of festivities around the carnival having gathered considerable crowds, sometimes exceeding one million people, and in conditions of great physical proximity, in all major cities.

"The patient stayed from February 9 to 20" in Italy, said the Brazilian Minister of Health during a press conference in Brasilia. "He arrived (in Brazil) with no feverish symptoms and had a family reunion."

But two days later, he went to consult with flu symptoms and "because of the link with Italy," the minister continued.

A first positive test carried out by the Albert Einstein hospital in Sao Paulo has been confirmed by the Adolfo Lutz Institute, added Mr. Mandetta.

"The patient is fine, he is at home, placed in isolation until the symptoms disappear," said Jose Henrique Germann Ferreira, secretary of health in Sao Paulo.

The health authorities are looking for his relatives and all those who were in close contact with this first patient.

Brazil currently has 20 suspected cases of Covid-19 contamination, 12 of which are people who traveled to Italy, authorities said on Wednesday.

- "A flu to overcome" -

In Europe, Italy is the most affected country with more than 370 cases and now 12 deaths.

"There is no border" on the spread of the virus, added the Minister of Health, limiting himself to asking Brazilians to avoid displacement if they felt feverish.

"We cannot block people, it is not effective" in a place "of great global transit," he said of Sao Paulo, which has 12 million inhabitants.

At Guarulhos International Airport in the largest metropolis in Latin America, AFP did not see any specific measures at midday on Wednesday. Only a few employees wore masks at the first airport in Brazil.

"It is still a flu that humanity will have to overcome," added the Minister of Health.

"As with all viruses, reactivity is the most effective," he added, congratulating the teams at the Albert Einstein hospital.

Before the confirmation of this first case, Mr. Mandetta had already described on coronavirus CBN the "flu" coronavirus and tried to minimize in advance the effect of the announcement of a first contamination.

"We have to keep calm, it's a flu and we will overcome it," he said.

The minister also estimated that the virus could behave differently in the southern summer, where temperatures fluctuate around 30 degrees.

"It's a virus that appeared with low temperatures. It might not behave the same way" in Brazil, which is in the middle of summer, "It could be better, or worse," he said. -he thinks.

The coronavirus now affects, apart from China, around 40 countries where it has killed around 50 people and nearly 2,800 infections.

In China, the virus has infected some 78,000 people, more than 2,178 of whom have died. However, the epidemic seems to have peaked there.

© 2020 AFP