SAO PAULO (Reuters) – The state of Sao Paulo, home to Brazil’s biggest city, imposed stricter social distancing measures on Monday as it wrestles to contain a fresh rise in COVID-19 cases.
Opening hours and capacities for bars, restaurants and shopping malls will be restricted in Brazil’s most populous state which has been the epicenter of the country’s coronavirus outbreak.
Governor Joao Doria, speaking at a news conference to announce the measures, said the restrictions would not impact the reopening of schools.
COVID-19 has killed more than 170,000 people in Brazil, the world’s second-highest death toll behind only the United States.
Cases are rising across the country again after a brief hiatus.
For an interactive graphic tracking the global spread of COVID-19, open https://graphics.reuters.com/world-coronavirus-tracker-and-maps/ in an external browser.
On Monday, the World Health Organization urged Brazil to be “very, very serious” about its rising coronavirus infection numbers, which Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus described as “very, very worrisome.”
President Jair Bolsonaro has derided governors and mayors for imposing stay-at-home measures, saying the cost to jobs and the economy is too severe for a disease he dismissed as a “little flu.”
The state restrictions come the day after municipal elections in which Doria’s ally, Bruno Covas, was re-elected as mayor of Sao Paulo. Critics accuse the state government of delaying the unpopular decision to impose new COVID-19 restrictions until after the vote. The government denies it dragged its feet over the move.
(Reporting by Eduardo Simoes in Sao Paulo; Writing by Stephen Eisenhammer; Editing by Matthew Lewis)