New anti-Covid measures in Brazil with an eye on Carnival

Sao Paulo, Brazil, Jan 19 (EFE).- Authorities in Sao Paulo, Brazil’s most populous city, on Wednesday announced new measures to try and prevent the spread of Covid-19 with an eye toward Carnival, given that recent spike in coronavirus cases to record levels nationwide.

On Tuesday, Brazil registered a record 137,103 newly detected cases within the past 24 hours, according to official figures, with 351 deaths, far below the 4,249 deaths registered on April 9, 2021, for instance.

The cases on Tuesday were below the record 150,106 cases logged on Sept. 18, 2021, but on that day 92,614 positive cases were added to the tally that had been detected earlier in 2021 and in 2020.

Just like the rest of the world, Brazilians have been impacted by the spread of the new and highly transmissible Omicron coronavirus variant, and although this new strain seems to create only mild symptoms in vaccinated people it is creating huge numbers of cases, a small percentage – but a large absolute number – of which must be hospitalized.

The spread of Omicron is a step backwards in Brazilian authorities’ attempts to continue easing health measures, especially with the Carnival festivities coming at the end of February.

Both Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo have already announced that they will cancel the traditional so-called “street carnivals” or dance parades, but they will hold the colorful and exciting parades of the samba schools at their sambodromes.

On Wednesday, the Sao Paulo City Hall announced the health protocols that will be in force at the Anhembi Sambodrome, where participants and spectators will have to provide proof of vaccination and attendance will be limited to 70 percent of the venue’s capacity.

In addition, both people participating in the dance parades at the sambodrome as well as spectators will have to wear facemasks, which is obligatory on the streets of Sao Paulo but is being respected by fewer people each day.

Moreover, prior registration by the members of the samba schools, whose numbers will be reduced, will be necessary.

In the case of the Rio sambodrome, it is expected that the city hall there will soon issue its health protocols for the event.

Meanwhile, Brazil earlier this week began vaccinating children ages 5-11, a process that in Sao Paulo and Rio was launched on Monday.

Despite the fact that Brazil is the No. 2 country in terms of overall Covid-19 deaths, following the United States, the start of child vaccination has been delayed for several weeks, a situation that has sparked criticism from the medical sector and a number of officials and other authorities.

Part of the blame can be laid at the feet of President Jair Bolsonaro, one of the world’s biggest deniers of the seriousness of Covid, who has still not been vaccinated and made clear last December that he would not allow his 11-year-old daughter to be inoculated either.

Sao Paulo Gov. Joao Doria, an early candidate for the presidency in the Oct. 2 elections, complained on Wednesday about the delay in starting children’s vaccinations, despite the fact that “the medical community and pediatric specialists had recommended immediate vaccination for that cohort of the population.

“We could have started this vaccination more quickly, but the health ministry, instead of accelerating (it) kept discussing, delaying it, holding meetings and other useless things,” Doria said.

In Sao Paulo alone, up through Tuesday, according to official figures released on Wednesday, 23,200 kids – out of the 4.3 million scheduled to be vaccinated in the state – were inoculated, a process that nevertheless has encountered surprising problems around the country.

According to local media, a total of 57,147 under-18’s received doses for adults that were not authorized by the National Health Monitoring Agency (Anvisa).

That mistake, whether with unauthorized vaccines or doses reserved exclusively for adults, affected some 2,400 kids up to age 4 and another 23,200 between 5-11, as well as about 30,000 children between ages 12-17.

EFE ag/cm/eat/bp

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