Virus rise forces Sao Paulo to close while Buenos Aires reopens

SAO PAULO (AP) – A wave of COVID-19 cases is stalling the samba steps in Brazil’s largest metropolis as Argentina’s capital tiptoes back to the tango floor.

The two largest cities in each of South America’s neighboring countries are heading in opposite directions, reflecting how those who loosen restrictions despite warnings from scientists see an increase in the pandemic, while others who Keeping social distancing measures in place can reopen their economies sooner. .

Sao Paulo, home to nearly 12 million people, is preparing for the worst two weeks of the pandemic and the growing risk that its once resilient healthcare system will collapse, the governor told reporters on Wednesday. João Doria. More than 75% of the city’s intensive care beds are occupied by COVID-19 patients and some wards, such as those at the Albert Einstein private hospital, are full for the first time.

Doria announced that the entire state, home to 46 million people, will face the highest level of restrictions on Saturday to stop the spread of the virus. That means the closure of all bars, restaurants, shopping centers, and any other establishment deemed nonessential until at least March 19.

Meanwhile, the nearly 3 million residents of Buenos Aires are enjoying a loosening of their restrictions, and the authorization to attend movie theaters will take effect this week. On Wednesday, official figures showed that only 26% of intensive care beds were occupied by COVID-19 patients. The low hospitalization rate also allowed local authorities in mid-February to reopen bars and restaurants until 2 a.m., something long sought in a city famous for its all-day culture.

That means the famous steakhouses in Buenos Aires are rekindling their fires, while those in Sao Paulo are putting out theirs.

Buenos Aires casinos also reopened in late 2020, and authorities are discussing whether the soccer-mad city will be able to return to stadiums soon. In Brazil, despite Bolsonaro’s push to allow fans to return, no local authority is seriously considering opening stadiums. The 48,000-seat NeoQuimica stadium on the east side of Sao Paulo is being used as a vaccination post.

Some good news from the Sao Paulo region came on Tuesday, when soccer great Pelé received his first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. The 80-year-old man posted the news on his social media channels.

“The pandemic is not over yet. We must maintain discipline to preserve lives until many people have been vaccinated, ”said the three-time World Cup winner. “When you go out, don’t forget your mask and keep your social distance.”

His allegation is important, even a year after the pandemic began, as Bolsonaro continues to question the effectiveness of the masks.

The distance between the two nations has apparently widened during the pandemic, with Bolsonaro and Argentina’s Alberto Fernández adopting opposing tactics in their handling of the crisis. The former has downplayed the risks of the disease and has insisted on keeping the economy moving, while the latter has taken a more cautious approach.

Fernández imposed one of the longest quarantines in the world between March and October, despite the risks of damaging an economy that is already in recession.

During the past week, Brazil registered 35 deaths from COVID-19 per million inhabitants, almost triple that of Argentina.

Riots in Sao Paulo escalated after stealthy Carnival celebrations in mid-February. Although street celebrations and parades were canceled, many São Paulo residents, as residents are known, traveled or joined gatherings without a mask. The city refused to allow days off from work that were traditionally allowed during the Carnival period, in an attempt to prevent people from partying.

Izidoro Silveira, 34, got a job waiting tables at a pizzeria in downtown Sao Paulo two months ago, after almost a year without a job. He’s upset about the impending closure of his restaurant.

“Those who make deliveries won’t get hurt, but me and many others will,” Silveira said in anguish as he watched a televised newscast about the shutdown. “I don’t know what to say to my wife and daughter. I am afraid of losing my job again, even though I work in a place that takes all precautions. “

Not far away, the cinemas on the city’s main street, Avenida Paulista, are empty, just as they have been since the pandemic began.

Argentina’s ease does not mean that the virus is completely under control. Official figures on Wednesday showed 262 deaths and more than 8,700 new infections in the country. The launch of the vaccine is slow. But the overwhelming gloom seen in Sao Paulo seems to be far from Buenos Aires.

With a bag of popcorn in one hand and a soda in the other, 8-year-old Bautista Sundblat was eager to enter a movie theater in the posh Palermo neighborhood of Buenos Aires to see “Bad Boys Forever.”

“He’s very excited,” said his mother, Martina. “We had been waiting for a long time. There are few seats left, everything has been taken care of. He’s a movie fanatic. There is still a long way to go, but little by little we are getting where we wanted ”.

___ Rey reported from Buenos Aires.


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