Health

Brazilian state requires masks in bid to slow coronavirus spread

Sao Paulo, Jul 1 (efe-epa).- An awareness-raising campaign was carried out here Wednesday in Brazil’s largest metropolis to alert people to the health risks of failing to use face coverings, an operation conducted a day before masks will be mandatory in public places throughout Sao Paulo state.

Starting Thursday, commercial establishments and individuals in Sao Paulo, home to 12 million people, and the rest of the state will be fined 5,000 reais (around $940) and 500 reais, respectively, for not heeding the mask order issued by state Gov. Joao Doria.

“Today is a very important day for public health. We’re aware of the pandemic situation in the country, around the world, and one of the measures that we can say is most effective is the use of face masks,” Maria Cristina Megid, technical director of the state’s health vigilance agency, said in a press conference.

Health vigilance teams on Wednesday set up various control points in downtown Sao Paulo to “educate and orient” the public before stepped-up monitoring – and fines for those not wearing masks – will begin on Thursday.

Megid estimated that 97 percent of the residents of Sao Paulo state already are heeding authorities’ recommendation to use masks in public places.

“But now we have a small minority who can compromise the health of the vast majority” by not using face coverings, she said.

The emergency order published Wednesday in Sao Paulo state’s Official Gazette states that the health vigilance teams will inspect commercial establishments to verify that they have posted notices about the mask requirement and are enforcing correct use of that equipment; the teams also will ensure that no one inside a retail outlet is failing to use a face covering.

Those inspectors also will stop individuals on the street who either are not using masks or using them incorrectly.

“The mask has to be put on right. If it’s around the neck, over the ear, under the nose or above the chin, (that person) will be approached and fined,” Megid said.

In a press conference this week, Doria said the purpose of the measure is not to punish people but rather to “orient and alert the population to the importance of protecting their lives.”

Sao Paulo state, a region that is Brazil’s most populous with 44 million people and which put in place containment measures 100 days ago, thus far has had 281,380 confirmed coronavirus cases and nearly 15,000 deaths attributed to Covid-19, according to the latest official figures. EFE-EPA

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