Shocking scenes emerge in country ravaged by virus

Tom Flanagan
News Reporter

Alarming photos from South America’s worst hit country reveal the daunting challenge its government faces in its bid to curtail the rapid spread of coronavirus.

While Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro has now pushed forward and begun to ease certain restrictions, its number of cases and deaths continue to soar.

Desperate to rescue its dwindling economy, Mr Bolsonaro has urged people to begin returning to a sense of normality to their lives and get people back to work.

Yet such an instruction from the government has led to growing crowds in its major cities with social distancing almost non-existent.

Commuters at Luz station in Sao Paulo congregated together on Monday. Source: Getty

Images from Sao Paulo’s Luz Station show hundreds disembarking trains and congregating closely on platforms as they wait to exit the station.

The city has expanded its vehicle rotation amid the pandemic in a bid to increase social isolation, only allowing cars with registrations ending with even numbers to travel on even days of the month, and vice versa for odd numbers.

This has led to an increase in public transport use over the last couple of days and while all passengers are required to wear masks while using trains and buses, experts have previously warned such protection is no substitute for social distancing when trying to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Monday declared gyms and hair salons as essential services that can stay open through the new coronavirus outbreak, easing measures to control the disease.

Passengers gather close together waiting to use the station's escalator. Source: Getty

Brazil has now registered a total of 168,331 confirmed cases of the virus and is closing in on the number of cases recorded in Germany and France, where the outbreak has been slowing.

To date, Brazil has confirmed 11,519 deaths due to the disease.

President clashes with local governments

The president has argued that state and municipal governments have gone overboard in social isolation measures to restrict the disease's spread and that it is overly damaging to the economy.

"The question of life has to be taken in parallel with jobs," Mr Bolsonaro told reporters outside his official residence.

"Without the economy there is no life, there are no doctors, there are no hospital supplies."

Mr Bolsonaro's latest decree allowing more establishments to stay open comes as Brazil registered 5,632 new coronavirus cases on Monday and 396 deaths from the disease, according to the Health Ministry.

After initially decreeing that establishments such as pharmacies and grocery stores were essential, Mr Bolsonaro later expanded that list to include lotteries and churches.

This third decree expands the list of essential business further, also extending it to industrial production and civil construction, with Bolsonaro promising even more easing to come.

Health Minister Nelson Teich told a briefing on Monday that the ministry had not been consulted about the president's decision to allow gyms and beauty salons to reopen.

The ministry also said in a statement that it had issued guidelines to state and municipal authorities on the range of social distancing standards, from strict to loose, saying the ultimate decisions rests with local governments.

"It is local health authorities' responsibility to adopt or loosen non-pharmalogical measures," it said.

Global automaker Fiat Chrysler on Monday said it was gradually restarting production at three factories in Brazil, with more than half of its roughly 10,000 employees in the country already returning to work.

The plants had been halted for 48 days, Fiat Chrysler said in a statement. The first task was to train employees on new health precautions, it said.

With Reuters

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