Brazil's richest state mulls tightening Covid-19 restrictions

Sao Paulo has been the epicentre of the pandemic since the outbreak started in Feb 2020. PHOTO: AFP

SAO PAULO (BLOOMBERG) - Sao Paulo, Brazil's richest and most populous state, is considering whether to reimpose more severe restrictions on the movement of people should a recent increase in Covid-19 cases persist, according to Governor Joao Doria.

Part of the state, including its capital, is under the least restrictive phase of the quarantine, and a decision about the measures in place is due to be announced on Monday (Nov 30). The governor said officials are continuously monitoring factors including the number of new cases and hospital capacity to decide if tougher measures will be needed going forward.

"Unfortunately we are seeing that all across Brazil," Doria said in a Wednesday video interview, referring to the increase in infections. "If we have to regress to ensure people's lives and health, we will do so."

Brazil, which has the world's second-most deaths and third-most cases of the virus, was among the last places to get hit by the first wave of the pandemic that originated in China. Now, as Europe and the US battle another surge of infections, concerns are growing that Latin America's largest economy could once again be overrun by Covid-19.

It's no different in Sao Paulo, which has been the epicentre of the pandemic since the outbreak started in February. While still well below numbers seeing at the peak of the crisis, hospitalisations have climbed to the highest level since early October.

The state of 46 million people accounts for roughly 20 per cent of the nation's 6.2 million cases of Covid-19. One in four Brazilians who have died from the disease were Sao Paulo residents.

Younger crowd Health experts say the rate of new infections accelerated following an increase in public gatherings. In-person events, from college entry exams to soccer matches, have largely resumed with the easing of social distancing measures. Parties of younger people are especially concerning, Doria said.

Municipal elections held across the country on Nov. 15 may also have contributed to an increase in Covid-19 cases. On Sunday, 57 cities will return to the ballots for a second-round vote, including Sao Paulo's capital. Bruno Covas, a Doria ally, will face left-wing candidate Guilherme Boulos in a run-off.

"We know people are exhausted of being isolated, being socially distant, of wearing masks," Doria said. "We need people to continue to abide by the rules and avoid crowds. But that's not what's happening in Brazil right now."

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