Rio de Janeiro closes its famous beaches in wake of Brazil’s Covid crisis
- Rio’s mayor Eduardo Paes said the virus situation in the city was ‘very critical’
- Public hospitals in the city currently have a 95% occupancy rate in intensive care
- Like much of Brazil it is struggling against the impact of the so-called P1 variant
Rio de Janeiro is closing its famous beaches for the weekend in order to contain a surge of Covid-19 cases blamed in part on the feared Brazilian strain of the disease.
Mayor Eduardo Paes said the situation in Rio was ‘very critical’ as he urged residents to stay at home and also banned new arrivals by bus in a bid to slow the contagion.
Public hospitals in Rio currently have a 95 per cent occupancy rate in intensive care units as Brazil piles up record numbers of new infections.
‘I am calling on all Cariocas’ – the nickname for Rio residents – ‘this is the moment to stay home,’ Paes told a news conference.
A crowded Ipanema beach in Rio de Janeiro last month – with the city’s mayor now closing down the famous beaches for the weekend in order to ease the crisis in hospitals
Paes warned that more restrictive measures could be announced on Monday, after he meets with an expert committee advising him on the pandemic.
The city of 6.7million people had already ordered businesses to close at 9pm in another lockdown measure which took effect on March 5.
It first closed its beaches a year ago during the first wave of Covid-19 in the country, although with limited results.
Legendary beaches such as Copacabana and Ipanema were often jam-packed on sunny days, with few police around to enforce the closure.
Rio had fully reopened its beaches again in November, just before the start of the Southern Hemisphere summer.
Like much of the country, the city is now struggling to deal with a new wave of Covid-19 cases that experts say is driven partly by the so-called P1 variant.
Rio last year dispatched police to enforce social distancing on beaches (seen here last July) but they fully re-opened in November ahead of the Southern Hemisphere summer
Brazil’s Covid-19 death toll has increased sharply in recent weeks, to nearly 290,000, second only to that of the United States.
Average deaths are now above 2,000 a day for the first time ever, while new infections reached a new nationwide peak of 90,303 on Wednesday.
The crisis has hit especially hard in the Amazon city of Manaus where the variant is thought to have emerged and where oxygen ran out earlier this year.
Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro, who has long downplayed the dangers of the virus, this week defended his opposition to lockdowns imposed by state leaders.
The former army captain said he had asked Brazil’s supreme court to stop what he called ‘abuses’ by governors locking down their states against his will.
He also named his fourth health minister of the pandemic this week after an army general was sacked after coming under pressure over his handling of the crisis.
Bolsonaro said he was not ‘obsessed’ with being president or running for a second term next year, when he will be up for re-election.
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