COVID-19: Sao Paulo Closes All Non-Essential Businesses For Two Weeks

A street vendor wears a plastic bag as a preventive measure against the spread of the new coronavirus, COVID-19, in downtown Sao Paulo, Brazil, on March 16, 2020.  NELSON ALMEIDA / AFP
A street vendor wears a plastic bag as a preventive measure against the spread of the new coronavirus, COVID-19, in downtown Sao Paulo, Brazil, on March 16, 2020. NELSON ALMEIDA / AFP

 

Sao Paulo state Governor Joao Doria on Saturday ordered a two-week quarantine from Tuesday to help curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

The state is the economic capital of Latin America and the worst-hit area of Brazil, which has recorded more than 900 virus cases and 11 deaths. Six of those deaths have been in Sao Paulo.

The measure requires a “total closure of non-essential businesses and services,” Doria told journalists.

Sao Paulo state is home to 46 million people, and its capital city of the same name is the biggest in Latin America, with 13 million inhabitants.

While “bars, cafes and restaurants” must close, health services, security services, banks, supermarkets, bakers and public transport will all continue to function.

The move comes two days after Rio de Janeiro state announced similar containment measures, including the closure of world famous beaches such as Copacabana and Ipanema.

Doria said the measure would not affect industry.

“We know we’re in a war and this war needs to be faced with appropriate, fast and efficient decisions,” said Doria.

Brazil’s two most populous states have taken a pro-active approach to containing the coronavirus outbreak, in stark contrast to far-right President Jair Bolsonaro.

Bolsonaro hit out on Friday at Rio’s governor Wilson Witzel for the measures he took, which included closing air, sea and land links with other infected states.

“It seems like Rio de Janeiro is another country. It’s not, we’re a federation,” Bolsonaro said.

The majority of cases in Brazil — Latin America’s largest country, with 210 million people — have come in its two biggest states.

Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta predicted on Wednesday that the outbreak would reach its peak in Brazil between April and June, adding that cases wouldn’t start falling until September.

 

AFP

Brazil Closes Borders, Mexico Announces First Death From Pandemic

A man wearing a face mask as a preventive measure against the spread of the new coronavirus, COVID-19, walks in downtown Sao Paulo, Brazil on March 16, 2020. NELSON ALMEIDA / AFP
A man wearing a face mask as a preventive measure against the spread of the new coronavirus, COVID-19, walks in downtown Sao Paulo, Brazil on March 16, 2020. NELSON ALMEIDA / AFP.

 

South America’s biggest country Brazil on Thursday announced it was closing land borders to nearly all its neighbors to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, as Mexico reported its first virus death.

People in several cities in Colombia and Brazil mounted pot-banging “cacerolazo” protests from apartment balconies against the failure of their governments to act quickly against the pandemic.

Chile, rocked by months of social protests, unveiled an $11.75 billion economic stimulus package to cope with the effects of the virus on the giant copper producer.

Meanwhile, a plane operated by Spanish carrier Iberia sent to Ecuador to pick up stranded foreigners was prevented from landing at an airport in Guayaquil, which is under lockdown.

Cynthia Viteri, mayor of Ecuador’s second city, said she ordered vehicles to block the runway of the international airport to prevent the plane from landing.

The flight from Madrid, with only crew aboard, was able to land later in Quito.

Ecuador has banned all flights since Monday to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

READ ALSO: COVID-19: Italy Passes China’s Virus Deaths, Braces For Long Lockdown

Mexico reported its first coronavirus death — a 41-year-old man with diabetes who died Wednesday in Mexico City. Mexico has 118 confirmed cases of infection.

Latin America has so far recorded 1,921 cases and 18 deaths.

– Chile stimulus plan-

Chile’s stimulus plan “will strengthen our ability to face the health, economic and social needs that the coronavirus pandemic is signifying and that will probably tend to worsen in the future,” President Sebastian Pinera told a press conference.

Health Minister Jaime Manalich announced a lockdown of Chile’s Easter Island, saying no one could enter or leave the remote Pacific island for the next two weeks.

Manalich said that though none of the island’s 7,000 population had the disease, many people from the island were trying to return and risked carrying the virus back with them.

Chile has registered 342 cases of the virus to date.

Colombia will block all international flights from Monday for 30 days, President Ivan Duque announced Thursday.

“As of 00:00 hours on March 23, the arrival of all international passenger flights to the country’s airports is prohibited,” the president wrote on Twitter.

Duque said the shutout was necessary because some people who had entered the country had tried to avoid mandatory quarantine regulations.

Colombia closed its land and sea borders on Tuesday.

– Bogota confinement –

Bogota city hall said the capital’s seven million people would face confinement from Friday to Monday as part of a trial run for a probable future quarantine.

Other cities across Colombia, which has more than 100 cases of the coronavirus, were also under nighttime curfews.

Brazil said its 15-day border closure would affect all neighboring countries, with the exception of Uruguay to the south.

It shut its border with Venezuela on Tuesday.

Senior Brazilian officials, such as Chamber of Deputies speaker Rodrigo Maia, had called for a total border shutdown.

Latin America’s largest country, with a population of 210 million, has so far registered 428 cases of the coronavirus, with four deaths.

Eduardo Bolsonaro, the lawmaker son of the Brazil’s president, joined US President Donald Trump in criticizing China over the pandemic, prompting demands from Beijing for an apology.

China’s embassy accused Bolsonaro of perpetuating the anti-China stance of Trump, who repeatedly refers to the “Chinese virus.”

“We are familiar with your irresponsible words. You imitate your dear (American) friends. On your return from Miami, you unfortunately caught a mental virus, which infected the friendship between our peoples,” the embassy said in a tweet.

AFP

Brazil Recaptures Inmates Who Escaped In COVID-19 Riot

Military police officers are seen at the main entrance of the Doctor Edgar Magalhaes Noronha (Pemano) Penitentiary during a riot on early March 17, 2020, in Tremembe, 155 km from Sao Paulo, Brazil.  Lucas LACAZ / AFP

 

Brazilian authorities said Tuesday they had recaptured 586 inmates who escaped from their minimum-security prisons after their right to leave on temporary furloughs was suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic.

But they estimated that 789 others remained on the run, after a series of riots Monday in four prisons in Sao Paulo state.

The riots broke out when authorities announced they were suspending the inmates’ right to leave for up to five week-long home visits per year.

They said they feared the returning prisoners would bring “heightened risk of spreading the new coronavirus among a vulnerable population” — their fellow inmates.

But that caused hundreds of prisoners to rebel against their guards, set fires and escape.

In all, at least 1,375 inmates fled, though authorities are still completing the count, the state penitentiary administration said.

The escapees were being held in “semi-open prisons,” which allow inmates to leave during the day for work and make extended home visits periodically.

The recaptured inmates “will lose the right to benefit from the semi-open system,” state prisons official Nivaldo Cesar Restivo told TV network Globo.

“They will now serve their sentences in normal prisons.”

Brazil has also suspended visits in its five federal maximum-security prisons over the coronavirus pandemic.

The country confirmed its first coronavirus-linked death on Tuesday.

AFP

Brazil Confirms First Coronavirus Death

A man wearing a face mask as a preventive measure against the spread of the new coronavirus, COVID-19, walks in downtown Sao Paulo, Brazil on March 16, 2020. NELSON ALMEIDA / AFP
A man wearing a face mask as a preventive measure against the spread of the new coronavirus, COVID-19, walks in downtown Sao Paulo, Brazil on March 16, 2020. NELSON ALMEIDA / AFP

 

Brazil confirmed its first COVID-19 death Tuesday, as Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro declared a state of emergency over the virus outbreak — though President Jair Bolsonaro condemned what he called “hysteria” over the escalating crisis.

The South American country’s first victim was a 62-year-old man with underlying health conditions who died Monday in Sao Paulo, authorities said.

He was diabetic and had high blood pressure, TV network Globo News reported.

“Unfortunately, this shows how severe this pandemic is, despite what some would like to believe,” Sao Paulo mayor Bruno Covas told CBN radio.

That will likely be taken as a jab at Bolsonaro, who criticized how local governments are reacting to the pandemic, after the city of Sao Paulo and state of Rio de Janeiro declared states of emergency over the virus.

“People are acting like it’s the end of the world,” the far-right president said in an interview with Radio Tupi.

“Some governors are taking measures that are really going to hurt our economy…. It’s not like having groups of people here and there is the problem. What we need to do is reduce the hysteria.”

The measures in Rio included closing the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue and the cable car to Sugarloaf Mountain, two of the city’s most famous attractions.

Sao Paulo eased regulations on government purchases of all materials linked to containing the virus — including hand sanitizer, now mandatory on public transportation.

Rio ordered restaurants to reduce the number of tables by 70 percent to increase distance between patrons, closed stores in shopping malls and halved the number of public transport vehicles in circulation, calling on people to remain home when possible.

On Friday, the state had already closed schools, theaters and cinemas for at least 15 days.

Rio Governor Wilson Witzel has also ordered people off the city’s beaches, deploying firefighters with loudspeakers to encourage them to go home.

Bolsonaro under fire

Brazil — the biggest country in Latin America, with 210 million people — has confirmed 234 coronavirus cases, concentrated in Sao Paulo and Rio.

Health officials are working to convince the population to take the threat seriously, but some Brazilians remain skeptical — not least Bolsonaro.

The president has drawn criticism for shaking hands and taking selfies with supporters at a rally Sunday, even though his own health ministry had recommended he remain in isolation for two weeks after being exposed to several officials who tested positive for COVID-19.

Bolsonaro tested negative for the virus last week, but is due to take another test to confirm.

He said in his radio interview that he would hold a “small party” to celebrate his 65th birthday Saturday, even though some health experts have recommended against such gatherings.

“Life goes on,” he said.

 

AFP

Brazil President Bolsonaro Undergoes Coronavirus Test – Son

FILES) In this file photo US President Donald Trump (R) speaks with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro during a dinner at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, on March 7, 2020. AFP

 

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has undergone a test for the new coronavirus after a top aide contracted the disease following a trip on which both met with Donald Trump, his son said on Thursday.

“President Bolsonaro has been tested for coronavirus and we are waiting for the results. However, he is not exhibiting any symptoms of the disease,” Eduardo Bolsonaro, a lawmaker, wrote on Twitter.

The far-right leader’s test results are expected Friday, Brazilian media reports said.

He cancelled a scheduled trip Thursday to the city of Mossoro, in northeastern Brazil, and his office said he had no other official events on his daily agenda.

Bolsonaro had previously sought to downplay the coronavirus outbreak, saying its severity had been “overstated.”

The news came after Bolsonaro’s communications chief, Fabio Wajngarten, tested positive for COVID-19 after a trip to the United States last weekend during which both men met with the US president at his Florida resort.

Wajngarten was photographed standing side-by-side with Trump.

But Trump said he was “not concerned,” and the White House said he did not need testing.

Trump and Vice President Mike Pence “had almost no interactions with the individual,” Trump spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said in a statement.

They “do not require being tested at this time,” she said, explaining that US government guidelines do not recommend testing for people without symptoms.

Eduardo Bolsonaro, who also accompanied his father to the United States, said he was undergoing testing as well.

The Brazilian delegation also included Foreign Minister Ernesto Araujo, who cut short a subsequent trip to Washington Thursday to return to Brazil. He would follow all current protocols on the virus, his office said.

AFP

Brazilian Who Met Trump Tests Positive For Coronavirus

Picture taken on November 12, 2019 showing Brazil’s Communication Secretary Fabio Wajngarten at Planalto Palace in Brasilia.  Sergio LIMA / AFP

 

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s communications chief, who met Donald Trump last weekend at his Florida resort, has tested positive for the new coronavirus, the government said Thursday.

Fabio Wajngarten, chief spokesman for the Brazilian government, traveled with Bolsonaro last Saturday to Tuesday to the United States, where the far-right leader — who has been dubbed a “Tropical Trump” — met with his US counterpart.

Wajngarten, who posted a picture to his Instagram account that shows him side-by-side with Trump, developed flu-like symptoms and tested positive for the virus that has become a global pandemic, the Brazilian presidency said in a statement.

Trump said he was unconcerned and downplayed his contact with “the press aide,” apparently referring to Wajngarten.

“I did hear something about that. We had dinner together in Florida, in Mar-a-Lago, with the entire delegation. I don’t know if the press aide was there. If he was there, he was there. But we did nothing very unusual,” he said.

“Let me put it this way, I’m not concerned,” he said, speaking a day after announcing a shock 30-day ban on travel from mainland Europe because of the pandemic.

Brazilian media reports said Bolsonaro had also been tested for the virus.

Newspaper O Globo reported that the US embassy in Brasilia had contacted the Brazilian government for information on Wajngarten’s test.

The embassy did not immediately respond to a request for comment from AFP.

The Brazilian president’s office “has taken and is taking all necessary preventive measures to protect the health of the president and all staff that traveled with him to the United States,” it said in a statement.

“This is because one of the officials in the group, Presidential Communications Secretary Fabio Wajngarten, is infected with the new coronavirus, COVID-19, as confirmed by a second test that was recently carried out.”

Bolsonaro, an admirer of Trump, met the US president at a lunch on Saturday.

After the meeting, Wajngarten posted a picture of himself standing next to Trump and wearing a hat reading “Make Brazil Great Again.”

In the picture, Trump, who is holding a similar hat, is standing next to Vice President Mike Pence.

AFP

Detained Ronaldinho ‘Did Not Know’ Passport Was Fake – Lawyer

Brazilian retired football player Ronaldinho arrives at Asuncion's Justice Palace to testify about his irregular entry to the country, in Asuncion, on March 6, 2020. Norberto DUARTE / AFP
Brazilian retired football player Ronaldinho arrives at Asuncion’s Justice Palace to testify about his irregular entry to the country, in Asuncion, on March 6, 2020. Norberto DUARTE / AFP

 

Brazilian football legend Ronaldinho did not deliberately use a fake passport and should be released by authorities in Paraguay, his lawyer said.

The two-time world player of the year and his brother Roberto, who was detained with him, spent their third night behind bars in the capital Asuncion on Sunday after using forged travel documents to enter the country.

Their Brazilian lawyer Sergio Queiroz said he would ask for the pair to be released and allowed to return to their home country when they next appear before a judge on Monday.

READ ALSO: Ronaldinho Arrested For Allegedly Using Fake Passport To Enter Paraguay

“Ronaldinho did not commit a crime because he did not know that the passport they gave him was faked,” he said.

Queiroz said that prosecutors had agreed that the footballer had acted in good faith and the decision by a judge to order their detention was unwarranted.

Ronaldinho, considered one of the greatest footballers of all time, was the star of Brazil’s 2002 World Cup win and played for Paris Saint-Germain, AC Milan and Barcelona, among others.

He and his brother arrived in Asuncion from Brazil on Wednesday and showed their passports to immigration police, who did not immediately notice any problem with the documents.

Hours later, when the passports were determined to be fake, investigators raided the room Ronaldinho was staying in and seized the brothers’ identity cards and travel documents.

Ronaldinho said the passports had been given him by people who had invited him to attend conferences sponsored by charities working with disadvantaged children.

 

AFP

Deforestation In Brazil’s Amazon Up 85 Percent In 2019

 

Deforestation in the Amazon rainforest in northern Brazil soared 85 per cent in 2019, compared with the previous year, official data showed Tuesday.

The 9,166 square kilometers (3,539 square miles) cleared was the highest number in at least five years, according to Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research.

In 2018, the deforested area was 4,946 square kilometers.

The sharp increase overlapped the first year in office of President Jair Bolsonaro, a climate change skeptic who has eased restrictions on exploiting the Amazon’s vast riches.

The data was collected by the satellite-based DETER system, which monitors deforestation in real-time.

It comes after fires ravaged swaths of the Amazon basin last year, igniting a global outcry and diplomatic feud between Bolsonaro and European leaders.

The number of fires in the rainforest rose 30 per cent to 89,178 in 2019, compared with the previous year, the latest official data show.

Human Rights Watch on Tuesday called on Bolsonaro to reverse his environmental policy, which the campaign group says has accelerated land clearing and encouraged attacks on forest defenders.

In recent months, three indigenous people have been killed in two separate incidents in the northeastern state of Maranhao.

One of them died after being ambushed by loggers. The others were killed in a drive-by shooting.

Brazilian President Loses Memory Temporarily After Falling

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro gestures while attending a Christmas event, at the Federal District public school in Brasilia on December 19, 2019. BETO BARATA / AFP

 

 

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro temporarily lost his memory after hitting his head in a fall at his official residence, he said in an interview on Tuesday.

The 64-year-old slipped Monday night in a bathroom at the Alvorada Palace, the latest health scare for the Brazilian leader who was wounded in a knife attack in September 2018 while campaigning for the presidency.

“At that moment I lost memory,” he said of the fall.

“The following day, this morning, I managed to get back a lot of things and now I am fine,” Bolsonaro said in a telephone interview with Band television.

“I didn’t know, for example, what I did yesterday.”

Bolsonaro spent the night at the Armed Forces Hospital in Brasilia under observation and was released Tuesday “with the recommendation that he rest,” his office said in a statement.

A cranial CT scan detected no anomalies, the statement said.

“I slipped and fell on my back. It was a nasty enough blow but I’m going to take care of myself,” Bolsonaro said in the interview.

His health has been a subject of concern ever since he became president on January 1.

He has undergone four surgeries to treat the stab wound to his abdomen, most recently in September.

Earlier this month, Bolsonaro said he had been examined for skin cancer.

“My health is fine,” he told Band TV, but added “there are some consequences” of the stabbing.

“One adapts to this new reality. The knife wound together with age is a dangerous mixture,” he said.

Earlier in the day, Bolsonaro tweeted passages from the Bible: “For if they fall, one will lift up his companion.

“But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up,” he said, quoting Ecclesiastes.

AFP

Brazilian Grandmother Turned Lingerie Model Shines Light On Older Women

 

Wearing nothing but a lacy bra and matching panties, Brazilian grandmother Helena Schargel strikes a seductive pose during a photoshoot featuring her latest lingerie designs for women over 60.

“Wonderful, marvelous,” the photographer gushes as Schargel, 79, stares confidently into the camera in a converted warehouse in Sao Paulo.

After decades working for a fabric company, the lithe and energetic Schargel emerged from retirement more than two years ago on a mission to drag older women out of obscurity.

Her tactic? Sexy fashion designed especially for them — and modelled by her.

“This project has a clear goal: to make women visible,” Schargel told AFP at her elegantly furnished apartment in Brazil’s biggest city.

Schargel has launched several underwear collections with Brazil’s Recco Lingerie. An activewear line with the company Alto Giro was unveiled this year and more are in the works, she says.

Schargel, who helps with the designs, says Brazilian women over 60 have long been overlooked by fashion companies, society — and even themselves.

 

She shares words of encouragement on her Instagram account, where she has nearly 18,000 mainly women followers, of all ages.

Messages such as “take a risk” and “you can do anything” pepper her feed, which receive hundreds, sometimes thousands, of likes and comments.

“I never thought about how old I was, never — this never worried me,” says Schargel, describing the popularity of plastic surgery in Brazil as “madness.”

“It was only a few years ago that I realized I was no longer 33.”

No Gym Trips

The daughter of Polish immigrants, Schargel began making clothes as a teenager and selling them in her parents’ store.

It was the beginning of a lifelong career in fashion.

Along the way, she got married twice and had two children. She now has five grandchildren, some of whom wear her designs.

Retirement did not suit the soon-to-be octogenarian, who moves with the ease of someone decades younger.

“I thank God that I don’t need to go to the gym,” she says, lolling in a lounge chair in black and white leggings and matching loose-fitting top and sneakers.

“I do pilates three times a week, which is good for me and my spirit.”

‘Absurdly Comfortable’

Schargel’s decision to model lingerie was daring in a macho country where older women are treated as if they “are not alive anymore,” says Vogue Brazil editor-in-chief Paula Merlo.

“She reminds you that there is a life after 60, 70 and it can be sexy, it can be fun and it can also be profitable.”

After some initial butterflies, Schargel says she feels comfortable stripping to her underwear in public.

Determined to appear as natural as possible, she insists on no photoshopping.

“I always say, ‘Please, leave all my little wrinkles just as they are’,” she says.

“They are very important. They show that I have arrived here.”

At the hours-long photo shoot, a barefoot Schargel drifts between the dressing room and photo studio, showing off lingerie and pieces from her new bed-to-street line.

She moves easily in front of the camera as fashion photographer Pablo Saborido clicks away.

“I really like working with people outside… the model profile,” says Saborido, 39.

Schargel says her lingerie is “absurdly comfortable.” Some pieces even “help lift the butt,” she adds cheekily.

As the global population ages, Schargel says the world needs to get ready for an explosion in elderly women in the coming decades.

“Twenty, 30 years from now, there will be many more grannies than young people,” she says.

“We need to prepare for this — companies need to prepare for this.”

Brazil’s Bolsonaro Rejects Trump’s Claim Of Currency Manipulation

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro gestures during the International Youth Day celebration at Planalto Palace in Brasilia on August 16, 2019. AFP

 

President Jair Bolsonaro on Wednesday rejected US accusations that Brazil has weakened its currency against the dollar, instead blaming global factors, after Washington announced plans to reimpose tariffs on Brazilian steel and aluminum.

Bolsonaro’s remarks come after he was blindsided by President Donald Trump’s announcement Monday about tariffs, which also would affect Argentina.

Trump charged the Latin American countries with “presiding over a massive devaluation of their currencies.”

“We are not artificially increasing the price of the dollar,” said Bolsonaro, who considers himself an ideological ally of Trump, outside his residence in the capital Brasilia.

“The world is globalizing — even the fight between the United States and China impacts the price of the dollar here.”

The Brazilian currency slid to a historic low of 4.27 reais to the dollar toward the end of November, prompting the central bank to intervene to prop it up.

Bolsonaro denied he was disappointed by Trump’s announcement, saying the case was “not closed.”

“For now, no tariff has been imposed — there’s only Trump’s promise on Twitter.”

He added: “I believe in Trump… we have an agreement, very cordial contact.”

Bolsonaro’s remarks come a day after official data showed Brazil’s economy — Latin America’s biggest — picked up pace in the third quarter, growing a better-than-expected 0.6 percent from the previous three-month period.

Brazil Approves Sale Of Medical Cannabis In Pharmacies

AFP Photo

 

Brazil’s health watchdog on Tuesday approved the sale of cannabis-based products for medical use in pharmacies to people with a prescription.

The regulation, which takes effect in the coming months, also allows for the manufacture of such products in a laboratory, the Brazilian Health Regulatory Agency (Anvisa) said in a statement.

Anvisa is analyzing the possibility of permitting the cultivation of medical cannabis.

READ ALSO: Prince Andrew’s Accuser Slams ‘Ridiculous Excuses’

In recent years, several countries in Latin America have legalized cannabis for medical use, including Uruguay, Chile, Colombia, Argentina, Mexico and Peru.

President Jair Bolsonaro has previously expressed support for medical cannabis. But the ultraconservative leader would “not permit loopholes in the law to be used for the planting and consumption of marijuana,” his spokesman Otavio Rego Barros told reporters in August.

Since 2015, Anvisa has allowed people with a medical prescription to import cannabidiol, or CBD, a non-psychoactive marijuana derivative, for the treatment of epilepsy and chronic illnesses.

The new regulation allows for the sale of products with a concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC — the main psychoactive constituent responsible for marijuana’s intoxicating effects — of more than 0.2 percent to terminally ill patients or those who have exhausted alternative treatment options.

Others will be allowed to buy medical cannabis products with a THC concentration of less than 0.2 percent.

AFP