Rio’s Beaches Won’t Fully Reopen Until There’s a COVID-19 Vaccine

Brazil has reported over 1.7 million coronavirus cases.

Mostly empty beaches in Rio, Brazil
Photo: Buda Mendes / Staff / Getty Images

The Mayor of Rio de Janeiro announced that the city’s famous beaches will not officially reopen until a COVID-19 vaccine is available to the public.

After weeks of strict lockdown, Rio reopened its beaches for exercise and water sports earlier this month. But during recent weekends, many people have been breaking the rules, not wearing masks, and not following social distancing guidelines on the sands.

Mayor Marcelo Crivella announced that fines for breaking the rules will begin this weekend and that the beaches will not fully reopen until the chance of spreading COVID-19 drastically drops.

“Where you can’t use masks, the inclination is to only return when there is a vaccine, which is being tested, or when contamination is close to zero,” Crivella said at a press conference, Reuters reported. “On the beach, you don’t use a mask and the level of infection goes up.”

Brazil has slowly been lifting restrictions and, last week, bars and restaurants in Rio were allowed to restart operations. Despite capacity limits and new hygiene measures, crowds formed at some establishments and police were called in to break them up, according to O Globo. Stricter enforcement will continue into the weekend, Crivella said.

This week, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro vetoed parts of a law that would have made it necessary to wear a facemask in enclosed spaces where large groups of people gather, like churches and schools, Reuters reported. The president has been criticized for his response to the pandemic.

Brazil is the second-worst COVID-19 affected country in the world, after the United States. The country has reported more than 1.7 million cases and 69,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

When Rio was under strict lockdown, a firefighter climbed a ladder and played his trumpet for residents, towering more than 150 feet above the city. And Rio’s Christ the Redeemer statue illuminated to honor the healthcare workers fighting the virus.

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