Life & Leisure

Pandemic casts pall over New Year’s in Brazil

Rio de Janeiro, Jan 1 (efe-epa).- Brazilians welcomed 2021 on Friday without the typical raucous celebrations, ruled out by authorities as Covid-19 deaths continue to mount at a rate of more a thousand a day.

Rio de Janeiro scrapped the world-renowned seaborne fireworks extravaganza that in previous years drew more than 2 million people to the city’s iconic Copacabana beach.

Copacabana, like other Rio beaches, was packed for most of the week, but only handfuls of people remained when police deployed after sunset to enforce the closure ordered by the municipal government.

The Christ the Redeemer statue that looks out over the city from atop Corcovado mountain was lit up to mark the coming of 2021 and honor the health-care workers on the front line of the battle against coronavirus.

Brazil, with nearly 195,000 Covid-19 fatalities, is second only to the United States in pandemic mortality. And the South American nation is No. 3 worldwide in the number of confirmed cases, closing in on 7.7 million.

In Sao Paulo state, many coastal municipalities ignored the call from Gov. Joao Doria to shut down non-essential activities over the holiday.

Even so, cities such as Santos, Guaruja and Praia Grande canceled fireworks displays and agglomerations of people on the beaches were smaller than usual.

Salvador, on Brazil’s northeastern coast, is a popular destination for both domestic and international visitors this time of year. While the city went forward with fireworks and a virtual concert, people were not allowed on the beaches.

Farther up the coast in Recife, authorities ordered the food kiosks that line 7 km/4.3 mi-long Boa Viagem beach to close on Thursday and substituted a laser-light show for the customary fireworks.

Motorcycle cops and mounted police patrolled the beach overnight to prevent crowds from gathering.

Coastal cities in Brazil’s far south, such as Florianopolis and Camboriu, offered fireworks and allowed tourists on their beaches.

The largest urban centers in Amazonia, Manaus and Rio Branco, organized virtual concerts and decorated public buildings to pay tribute to Brazilians who have died from coronavirus.

Brazil enters 2021 without a firm date for the arrival of vaccines, while mass vaccination is already underway in several Latin American countries, including Argentina, Mexico, Chile and Costa Rica.

The Brazilian Health Ministry expects to begin inoculation no earlier than Jan. 20. And even that timeline could prove optimistic, as none of the vaccine candidates has secured approval from the agency that regulates medicines, Anvisa.

Health professionals attribute the delay to poor crisis management by the government of right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro, who has persisted in underplaying the seriousness of the pandemic even after his own bout with Covid-19. EFE wgm/dr

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