Sao Paulo Sets Week-Long Holiday to Halt Covid in Brazil

Sao Paulo, the largest city in South America, will bring forward holidays going as far as 2022 as officials scramble to halt the spread of coronavirus that’s killing over 2,500 Brazilians a day.

The week-long holiday was announced by Mayor Bruno Covas on Thursday and is aimed at curbing the circulation of people between March 26 and April 1 -- the following day, a Friday, is already a national holiday. For that, it’s bringing forward days off scheduled as far in the future as November 2022. The plan is similar to what officials did last year, which Covas said yielded good results.

A full lockdown is “impracticable” as there aren’t enough police to enforce such rules in the city of 12 million people, Covas told G1 website.

State and city officials across the country have grown increasingly worried as a new wave of the virus has hospitals working at capacity. In Sao Paulo, the nation’s financial hub, ICUs are about 90% occupied, Covas said, adding that there are 475 people waiting in line for a hospital bed, up from 395 the previous day. The city is rushing to open more beds, and will reserve some hospitals to deal only with Covid-19 patients.

Sao Paulo Sets Week-Long Holiday to Halt Covid in Brazil

Brazil is currently going through its worst phase of the pandemic. Cases and deaths have surged following year-end gatherings and clandestine Carnival festivities while a new, more transmissible, variant is accelerating contagion. The resurgence of the virus has led local officials to impose some of the harshest measures yet. This week, a study by the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation said the country is facing the biggest sanitary and hospital collapse in its history.

On Wednesday, the country registered more than 90,000 Covid-19 cases for the first time, a second straight day of record numbers. For the past week, deaths have topped 2,000 nearly every day.

Social isolation rates, meanwhile, have hovered around 30%-40% in Sao Paulo, according to government data. That’s about half the level officials considered optimal last year to slow the spread of the disease. The same is true for most of the country: data gathered by O Estado de S.Paulo newspaper put the national average rate at 34.4%.

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