Coronavirus cuts off Christ the Redeemer, symbol of Brazil

By Antonio Torres del Cerro

Sao Paulo, Mar 16 (efe-epa).- The spread of the coronavirus in Brazil seems inevitable to such an extent that the symbol of the country, Christ the Redeemer in Rio Janeiro, is closed due to the pandemic.

Meanwhile, populous Sao Paulo, known for its leisure life, is under a cultural “blackout” with the suspension of all activity in museums and similar venues.

There has been a state of emergency declared in Rio de Janeiro region, the second most inhabited in Brazil, and as of Tuesday, its main tourist spots, such as the Christ the Redeemer and the Sugarloaf Mountain, will close.

Governor Wilson Witzel said that bars and restaurants will have to reduce customer movement by 30 percent and that only food courts will be open in shopping malls.

According to the latest report from the Ministry of Health, 234 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in Brazil, 31 of them in Rio de Janeiro, where the pathogen is already circulating locally.

Despite the fact that the number is not yet high, authorities are concerned about Rio’s dense population — a fifth lives in unhealthy favelas — and about the scarcity of public health infrastructure.

Witzel, former federal judge, called on the most reticent young people to restrict their outings in a city with as many attractions as Rio: “They have not understood that we are trying to avoid more deaths like those that are occurring in Italy, Spain and South Korea.”

The state of Rio, which had already ordered the closure of schools on Friday, has decreed a state of emergency to have more power while restricting movement in Rio de Janeiro and providing aid to those most affected.

Despite the fact that large crowds had formed on Sunday in a demonstration in favor of the Brazilian government encouraged by President Jair Bolsonaro, local authorities asked for containment on Monday to those in the paradisiacal beaches of Rio.

The government of Sao Paulo, the most populous state in Brazil and the one most affected by the coronavirus (152 cases), announced on Monday the closure of all public museums, libraries and cultural, leisure or sports centers for 30 days.

The Sao Paulo region, which has not yet adopted such drastic measures such as Rio de Janeiro or Minas Gerais, has 44 million inhabitants and is known for being the economic capital of Brazil and for its lively cultural and social life.

Governor Joao Doria (center-right) said that new measures will be announced in the coming days, but assured that there is “no reason to panic.”

“There are (reasons) for information, reasoning and decision-making,” he said.

At Guarulhos International Airport, the busiest in Brazil, the imagery this Monday morning was one of unsettling tranquility, with very few passengers boarding.

The Brazilian government announced on Monday that it will restrict visits to jails, aiming to prevent the arrival of the coronavirus to a prison population estimated at some 800,000 people, most of them crowded in unsuitable places.

According to the Ministry of Justice, “social visits” will be suspended for the next 15 days, while lawyers’ visits will be restricted for a week, except in cases that require “urgency” or respond to strict procedural reasons.

The Brazilian prison system, considered one of the worst in the world, has a deficit of around 350,000 places, which for years has gradually aggravated the overcrowded state in prisons in which, in addition, health care is precarious, according to several human rights organizations.

After embracing dozens of followers in one of the demonstrations held this Sunday in favor of his government, Bolsonaro justified the encouragement he gave to the protests, against the recommendations issued by the health authorities.

“If people go to the door of the (presidential) Palace, I have to be next to the people, I have to show that I am with them,” the president said in an interview with Bandeirantes radio.

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