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Brazil’s Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro ease restrictions despite record COVID deaths

FILE PHOTO: Outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

SAO PAULO (Reuters) – Brazil’s Sao Paulo state and the city of Rio de Janeiro are easing restrictions on hospitality businesses and other activities, authorities said on Friday, even as Latin America’s largest country continues to break its own grim records for daily COVID-19 deaths.

Sao Paulo will allow customers to pick up takeaway food from bars and restaurants starting on Monday, while professional sports games will be permitted without crowds, along with a series of other specific activities, Vice-Governor Rodrigo Garcia told journalists.

In the city of Rio de Janeiro, officials on Friday lifted a broad set of restrictions put in place in late March. Bars, restaurants and malls can resume in-person service, though beaches and parks remain closed and an 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew remains in effect.

Daily deaths remain near historic highs in both Sao Paulo, Brazil’s most populous state, and Rio de Janeiro, the country’s second biggest city. Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes and Sao Paulo’s Garcia both pointed to decreased pressure on local hospital systems when discussing their decisions to ease restrictions.

“Easing (restrictions) doesn’t have to do with deaths, but rather the most current data regarding urgent and emergency care,” Paes said.

Brazil on Thursday set a daily record of 4,249 COVID-19 deaths, over 1,500 of which were registered in the states of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, which has emerged as a hotspot in Brazil’s current coronavirus wave.

(Reporting by Eduardo Simoes in Sao Paulo and Rodrigo Viga Gaier in Rio de Janeiro; Writing by Gram Slattery; Editing by Susan Fenton)

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