Rio extends pandemic restrictions

Rio de Janeiro (AFP) –


The city of Rio de Janeiro, hard-hit by the coronavirus pandemic ravaging Brazil, extended a set of restrictions Friday seeking to limit person-to-person transmission as the death toll continues to climb.

The measures, which entered into force two weeks ago and were due to expire on Sunday, had contributed to hospital admissions starting to level off for the first time in weeks, mayor Eduardo Paes told reporters.

But this was not enough.

"If there had been a major drop we could have reduced the restrictions" from next Monday, said Paes.

"I want to open beaches, restaurants and bars, but that decision is based on scientific data," he added.

"You have to give a little more time, no matter how hard it is for companies and for those looking for work to earn a living. These decreases in people-to-people contact are already paying off," said the mayor.

The occupancy rate of intensive care beds in the city remains at over 90 percent, as Brazil battles its toughest phase of the outbreak so far.

March was the deadliest month for Brazil since the pandemic first started, with 66,573 deaths -- more than double the previous record set in July 2020.

Brazil's death toll of over 325,000 is second only to that of the United States with more than half-a-million.

Rio de Janeiro state, with more than 37,000 dead, has a mortality rate of 215 per 100,000 inhabitants, higher than the national average of 141.

Paes said schools in Rio city will reopen for in-person lessons on Tuesday.

But non-essential business -- bars and restaurants, cinemas, museums and theaters included -- will not be allowed to reopen before Friday, and then with restricted hours.

The city's famous beaches will remain off limits until April 19, when a daily curfew from 11:00 pm to 05:00 am will also be lifted and dance clubs reopened.