Recife, Brazil, June 8 (efe-epa).- The paradisaical Brazilian archipelago of Fernando de Noronha began to ease isolation measures on Monday to start the gradual reopening of its economy after reducing coronavirus infections to zero – a stark contrast to the rest of the country.
Alarm bells sounded in the 21 Atlantic Ocean islands and popular tourist destination when 30 out of the little over 3,000 inhabitants tested positive for COVID-19 and the archipelago became one of the first places in Brazil to impose strict measures of social isolation and suspension of some activities.
In its latest epidemiological bulletin released on Sunday by the administration of Fernando de Noronha, which falls under the jurisdiction of the northeastern state of Pernambuco, the archipelago reported that 21 suspected cases had been ruled out.
“We managed to reduce infections to zero because we did mass testing, which was not done in the rest of the country, and also a strong effort to raise awareness among people to stay at home so that social isolation could be implemented,” the territorial administrator of the archipelago, Guilherme Rocha, told EFE.
“That effort, to carry out mass tests and respect isolation (measures), was what allowed us to control COVID-19 on the islands,” he added.
Brazil, which has the second highest number of cases in the world and the third highest number of deaths due to the infectious disease, had recorded 691,758 confirmed cases and 36,455 deaths up until Sunday.
On the archipelago, only two people – a 56-year-old woman and a 50-year-old man – remain in quarantine, albeit without symptoms, after testing positive in a massive round of testing of 900 people, almost a third of the population.
The 18 people who had come into contact with the two COVID-19-positive patients and three others who had suspected symptoms of the disease underwent clinical examinations that ruled out the presence of the novel coronavirus.
Since May 25, the beaches of Fernando de Noronha have been open for local bathers, with a maximum of five people per group and a distance of 1.5 meters (5 feet) between each of them.
Individual physical activities and water sports as well as contact-less sports, with groups of up to four people, are also allowed on the islands.
From Monday, Fernando de Noronha will begin the gradual resumption of other activities, as ordered by the government of Pernambuco, to relax the measures taken to contain the spread of the coronavirus, but no date has yet been fixed for the reopening of the tourism sector – the main source of income on the islands.
The airport will therefore remain closed, which is why an Azul Airlines flight scheduled for Saturday was suspended.
So far only some official flights carrying food, supplies and health personnel and for the collection of the test samples, which are then analyzed in laboratories in Recife, the regional capital, have been allowed on the archipelago. EFE-EPA