Sao Paulo marks a month under quarantine

By Nayara Batschke

Sao Paulo, Apr 24 (efe-epa).- This metropolis that is the center of the Covid-19 pandemic in Brazil completed a month under lockdown Friday with an toward a “gradual” re-opening set to begin May 11, even though the indicator say the coronavirus has yet to peak in Latin America’s largest nation.

Sao Paulo, the most-populous city in the Western Hemisphere, is in the capital of the likenamed state that is home to 46 million of Brazil’s roughly 210 million people.

The state accounts for 1,345 of the country’s 3,313 coronavirus deaths and for 16,740 of the nearly 50,000 confirmed cases.

Health officials fear a possible exponential increase in cases in Sao Paulo if authorities proceed with a phased re-opening next month.

The state’s governor, Joao Doria, said Friday that municipalities that fail to meet social-distancing requirements will not be allow to begin rolling back restrictions on May 11.

Doria, who has chided the public for a poor level of compliance with the quarantine, said that only 20 of Sao Paulo’s 645 municipalities have achieved 50 percent social distancing.

“It will not be possible to allow flexibility in the localities where people don’t obey a minimum distancing of 50 percent,” he said.

Covid-19 has already claimed nearly 1,000 lives in Sao Paulo city, which is home to some 12 million people.

Though bars and restaurants, shopping malls and parks are closed, dozens of people could be seen on Avenida Paulista, the city’s main thoroughfare: visiting small shops, exercising, taking their kids out for walks.

And many were without masks or any other form of protection.

In a plaza downtown, elderly people were doing yoga and a group of friends gathered to chat to the sound of music from a portable amplifier.

Real estate agent Pedro Gomes da Silva, 21, acknowledged to Efe that he tends “to break the quarantine often,” even though his father, a 53-year-old nurse, only recently recovered from the coronavirus.

Invoking the pronouncements of right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro, who has dismissed Covid-19 as a “measly flu,” Da Silva says he’s not worried about getting sick because he doesn’t belong to “any high-risk group.”

Bolsonaro has clashed publicly with state governors, including Doria, over the steps they have taken to contain the spread of the virus, and this week fired Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta for his resistance to restarting the economy right now.

Eight of Brazil’s 27 states have begun to ease restrictions.

Hundreds gathered earlier this week outside a mall in the southern city of Blumenau to celebrate its re-opening, made possible by Santa Catarina do Sul Gov. Carlos Moises, who authorized churches, stores, restaurants and gyms to resume operations.

The government of the tiny northeastern state of Sergipe gave the green light for hotels, motels, restaurants and bars to open for business.

But the governor of Rio de Janeiro state, Wilson Witzel, decided to postpone the planned relaxation of the quarantine in his jurisdiction, where 530 people have perished of Covid-19 and nearly 6,200 have tested positive.

Though 76 percent of respondents to a Datafolha poll said they supported the precautions, owners of small businesses are concerned about the effect on their bottom line.

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