Brazil's biggest cities start reopening as Covid-19 surges

People walk along a commercial street in downtown Sao Paulo on June 10, 2020. PHOTO: AFP

SAO PAULO (REUTERS) - Brazil's most populous state Sao Paulo reported a record number of Covid-19 deaths for the second day running on Wednesday (June 10) even as its homonymous metropolis allowed shops to resume business and prepared to reopen its malls.

The state, the epicentre of the pandemic in Brazil, recorded 340 new deaths in 24 hours, raising its confirmed death toll to 9,862, a fourth of the country's total fatalities, the governor's office said.

That did not stop shoppers flocking to the 25 de Março shopping district in Sao Paulo city, where around half of the businesses were open on Wednesday.

Although stores considered essential, such as supermarkets and pharmacies, have remained open, most shops in Sao Paulo have been shut since March.

Shoppers packed the streets. Stores only allowed in people wearing masks and provided alcohol gel. Some took the temperature of shoppers at the entrance.

"I'm afraid because the virus is growing, but at the same time we have to go to work and buy things to sell, though always protected by a mask," said Ms Vanessa Pereira, a saleswoman.

The city's malls will reopen on Thursday for four hours a day after agreeing with authorities on reducing public access as a precaution against the contagion.

In Rio de Janeiro, the second-hardest hit Brazilian city, the mayor announced malls will also reopen on Thursday as part of a scheduled easing of restrictions.

The decisions to reopen shops has been advocated by Brazil's far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, who has minimised the gravity of the coronavirus outbreak and dismissed warnings by public health experts that the contagion is still surging.

Brazil has 772,416 confirmed cases of infection, in the world's worst outbreak after the United States.

At least 39,680 people have died, the third-highest death toll after the United States and Britain.

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