Brazil's Rio de Janeiro closes beaches as pandemic worsens

FILE PHOTO: Beachgoers enjoy sunny weather in Leblon Beach as the Carnival celebrations were cancelled due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil February 16, 2021. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - The beaches of Brazilian city Rio de Janeiro will be closed this weekend, according to a municipal decree enacted on Friday, as the local government seeks to stem the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The measures take effect at midnight on Friday, forbidding all activities from sports to sunbathing and swimming. They are valid through Monday.

Even with a rising number of infections and deaths in Brazil’s second-largest city, residents have flocked to the breaches, especially on sunny weekends. The state government closed them last year, but the measure was soon lifted.

Parking vehicles along the shore is also prohibited under the decree, and authorities are expected to raise barriers to block tour buses.

Rio de Janeiro’s hospitals reached 95% capacity on Thursday, as patients’ admissions to intensive care units soared over the past few days.

Rio de Janeiro has registered almost 217,000 cases of COVID-19 and nearly 20,000 deaths related to the virus. More 287,000 people have died throughout Brazil.

An estimated half a million people have been vaccinated in Rio de Janeiro, or 7.4% of the population, government data show, higher than the national average.

Reporting by Rodrigo Viga Gaier; Writing by Ana Mano