By Carla Samon Ros
Sao Paulo, Jul 6 (efe-epa).- Brazil’s largest metropolis, the epicenter of the coronavirus in the South American country, took a new step Monday in its reopening plan, authorizing bars, restaurants and beauty salons to resume their activities.
Sao Paulo and its metropolitan area now has entered the third phase of its staggered easing of Covid-19 restrictions, following a second phase that began last month and allowed street shops and shopping malls to restart operations.
Hair salons, bars and eateries in Sao Paulo – a city of more than 12 million inhabitants that has registered 281,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and 7,600 deaths attributed to Covid-19 – had not been allowed to receive customers inside their establishments for more than 100 days.
Sao Paulo Mayor Bruno Covas, who urged people to exercise caution, said Monday that this new phase should not be construed as a “commemoration of the end of the pandemic” because the coronavirus crisis still “continues in the city.”
In statements to reporters, Covas called on city residents to avoid incidents like those observed last week in Rio de Janeiro, where hundreds of unmasked people filled the streets of the upscale Leblon neighborhood on the first night of the reopening of bars and restaurants.
In Sao Paulo, the newly reopened eateries and drinking establishments are resuming their activities under a series of restrictions, including limited hours.
They only will be allowed to operate at 40 percent capacity to discourage large crowds from assembling; face coverings also will be mandatory for both customers and employees.
“We’re open from 11 am to 5 pm, and anyone not using a mask won’t be allowed in,” Edivalson told Efe at the bar/restaurant where he works in the city’s historic downtown.
Beauty salons now also are operating in the capital of Sao Paulo state, albeit with capacity restrictions.
“We’re only receiving customers with a reservation, under restricted hours and with all the … safety measures,” Rosana, an employee at a beauty salon in the vicinity of the metropolis’ iconic Paulista Avenue, told Efe.
That salon had a smaller-than-usual number of customers on Monday because “a lot of people have misgivings,” Rosana said, adding that it remains to be seen whether business will pick up in the coming days.
As part of the phase-three reopening, gyms, theaters, cineplexes and performing arts venues are to resume operations in Sao Paulo the coming weeks.
Brazil has been one of the countries hardest hit by the coronavirus with 1.6 million confirmed cases and 65,000 deaths attributed to Covid-19.
But according to a recent study that examined the blood samples of nearly 90,000 people in more than 130 cities and was commissioned by Brazil’s Health Ministry, the real number of coronavirus cases in the South American country is likely five times higher (roughly 8 million) than the official figures indicate.
Brazilian authorities have approved clinical trials of two potential vaccines – one developed by the University of Oxford and the other by China’s Sinovac.
Around 9,000 volunteers – all of them health professionals – have been registered to test Sinovac’s vaccine against Covid-19 starting July 20 in six Brazilian states.
Referring to the Sinovac vaccine trial, the governor of Sao Paulo state, Joao Doria, said Monday it marks a phase of “fundamental importance” for the “life and health of millions of Brazilians.” EFE-EPA