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An airport employee, wearing a mask as a precautionary measure to avoid contracting the Covid-19 virus, helps travelers at Guarulhos International Airport, in Guarulhos, Sao Paulo, Brazil on February 26, 2020. - The Brazilian Health Ministry confirmed Wednesday the diagnosis of coronavirus of a Brazilian resident in Sao Paulo, which became the first case of this epidemic in Latin America. The initial diagnosis "was confirmed," Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta said at a press conference in Brasilia. (Photo by NELSON ALMEIDA / AFP)
An airport employee, wearing a mask as a precautionary measure to avoid contracting the Covid-19 virus, helps travelers at Guarulhos International Airport, in Guarulhos, Sao Paulo, Brazil on February 26, 2020. - The Brazilian Health Ministry confirmed Wednesday the diagnosis of coronavirus of a Brazilian resident in Sao Paulo, which became the first case of this epidemic in Latin America. The initial diagnosis "was confirmed," Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta said at a press conference in Brasilia. (Photo by NELSON ALMEIDA / AFP)

SAO PAULO: Sao Paulo’s stock exchange plummeted seven per cent on Wednesday over fears of the Covid-19 coronavirus after a local resident became the first such case recorded in Latin America.

The 61-year-old patient returned on Feb 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.

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

Twelve of those had traveled 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. - AFP

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