Rio de Janeiro, Sep 15 (EFE).- Rio de Janeiro, Brazil’s most emblematic city, on Wednesday began requiring that residents and tourists display an anti-Covid-19 vaccination certificate to be allowed to enter public places and tourist spots at a time when authorities are trying to limit the spread of the Delta variant.
Proof of vaccination began to be requested of everyone in public places like movie theaters, stadiums, gymnasiums, swimming pools, entertainment centers, nightclubs, Olympic villas, circuses, concert halls, museums, trade fairs, art galleries, parks and child recreation facilities.
It will also be demanded of people wanting to access the key tourist spots in the Brazilian city that welcomes the most visitors each year, including the huge Christ the Redeemer statue that overlooks the city, Sugarloaf Mountain, the aquarium, the Botanical Gardens and Maracana Stadium.
The first trial by fire for the measure will come on Wednesday when soccer stadiums open once again to the public after being closed for more than a year. Maracana will welcome 24,000 fans, one third of its actual capacity, for a Brazil Cup quarterfinals match between Flamengo and Gremio.
Everyone attending the game will have to present at the ticket office before purchasing tickets both their vaccination certificate and a negative Covid test performed within the past 48 hours.
Rio de Janeiro, the second-hardest-hit city by the pandemic in Brazil, will also require people who want to undergo elective surgery in public and private hospitals to show a vaccination certificate, along with municipal officials and anyone receiving any type of government subsidy or aid.
For now, and because of pressure by business owners, the requirement will not extend to restaurants, bars, supermarkets, stores and shopping centers, which will have to adhere to the other preventive measures, including restricting the number of people allowed in those establishments, social distancing and the use of facemasks.
Rio, the first Brazilian state capital to impose this measure, announced the restriction on Aug. 27 with the aim not only of limiting the spread of the pandemic but also incentivizing people to get inoculated, mainly the thousands of people who have not yet gotten their second dose of the vaccine.
According to City Hall, at least 212,000 people over age 50 never showed up for their second-shot appointments and another 166,000 older than 18 did not show up at immunization centers for their first doses.
In an unprecedented backing for the restrictive measure from the city government, the municipal council on Tuesday unanimously and with the support of ultrarightist lawmakers opposing any pandemic restrictions approved a law imposing a heavy fine – 1,000 reais ($200) – on anyone who falsifies or presents a fraudulent vaccination certificate.
Despite the fact that the daily numbers of deaths and hospitalizations due to Covid generally had been falling in Rio since May, as in the rest of Brazil, the city remains heavily impacted by the pandemic, surpassed only by Sao Paulo, and in fact has now become the epicenter of the Delta variant.
Brazil – with about 588,000 people having died from, and a little over 21 million having been infected by, the coronavirus – is in the No. 2 spot among the nations of the world for its official Covid death toll and in the No. 3 spot for infections, after the United States and India.
The city, Brazil’s second largest with 6.7 million residents, has suffered 32,895 Covid deaths and 460,999 cases since the start of the pandemic, the death toll being similar to the death toll for certain other entire countries like Ecuador and Hungary.
In contrast to the rest of Brazil – and after several months of decline – the number of coronavirus infections increased from July to August in Rio due to the rapid spread of the Delta variant, which is more transmissible than earlier strains and is currently responsible for 96 percent of the city’s new cases.
Rio saw its worst pandemic month last December, with 33,933 cases, but the vaccination program has resulted in a drop in the number of cases to 21,225 in June. However, with the arrival of the Delta variant, infections shot up to 28,361 in July and to a record of 41,019 in August.
The average number of daily Covid deaths in Rio stood at 127 in April, at the peak of the pandemic’s second wave, but it had fallen to an average of 60 per day in August.