São Paulo, Brazil, Mar 6 (efe-epa).- All non-essential shops and businesses in Sao Paulo, Brazil’s richest and most populous state, closed down on Saturday for the next few weeks due to a serious spike in cases and deaths from Covid-19, which have pushed the healthcare system to the verge of collapsing.
With 46 million inhabitants, the country’s financial engine was the first state to impose more severe measures of lockdown and social isolation a year ago and, with Governor Joao Doria at its head, led the implementation of the first vaccine. But despite those efforts, the state remains the most affected in absolute terms.
Of the almost 10.9 million confirmed cases and more than 262,000 deaths recorded in Brazil since the beginning of the pandemic at the end of February 2020, Sao Paulo has accumulated more than 2 million infections (equivalent to 19.25% of the total) and exceeded 61,000 deaths (23.23%) due to coronavirus.
Most states have an occupancy rate of beds in intensive care units (ICU) above 70% and in the most serious cases, such as São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Minas Gerais – the three most populated in the country – and Amazonas (north), the rate has already exceeded 90%.
“We in Brazil and in Sao Paulo are on the verge of a health collapse”, Doria told a press conference this week when announcing the new measures.
The red stage of Sao Paulo’s lockdown scheme is the most restrictive, and only allows essential businesses, such as supermarkets, pharmacies, public transport and gas stations, to operate.
The measures have not been able to stop Brazil registering record daily death figures in recent days.
The truckers’ union protested on Friday on a major highway in Sao Paulo and demonstrators, most of them without masks, took to Paulista Avenue, considered the financial heart of Brazil, to criticize Doria’s measures.
The protesters have the backing of Covid skeptic Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who has repeatedly played down the severity of the pandemic and who this week, despite the record deaths, criticized state governors for adopting more restrictions.
“Enough of being fussy (…) how long are we going to cry?” the head of state asked angrily, at the worst moment of the pandemic. EFE-EPA