Brazil's Rio ends indoor mask requirement as it relaxes Covid-19 rules

Masks had already been optional outdoors since October in the city. PHOTO: AFP

RIO DE JANEIRO (AFP) - Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes announced Monday (March 7) the city would no longer require face masks indoors or outdoors, as hard-hit Brazil continues to bounce back from Covid-19.

"In line with the decisions of the scientific committee (on the pandemic), we will publish a decree tomorrow ending the mask requirement in indoor as well as outdoor spaces," Paes wrote on Twitter.

"When we reach 70 per cent (of the population) vaccinated with a booster dose, we will also remove our vaccine passport requirement," he added.

The move makes Rio the first state capital in Brazil to lift its indoor mask requirement. Masks had already been optional outdoors since October in the city.

Brazil has been battered by the pandemic, with a Covid-19 death toll of more than 650,000 - second only to the United States in absolute numbers.

But with more than 72 per cent of Brazil's 213 million people now fully vaccinated, infections and deaths have fallen substantially.

The rolling average of daily Covid-19 deaths, which was more than 3,000 a day in April 2021 at the height of the crisis in Brazil, has fallen to 430.

In Rio, 83.8 per cent of the population is fully vaccinated, and 42.3 per cent have had an additional booster.

The iconic beach city of 6.8 million people postponed its famed carnival parade competition, originally scheduled for last week, until April over fears the Omicron variant would cause a new surge of Covid-19.

Even though carnival street parties were officially banned last week, many revelers flocked to private parties, and the city's beaches were packed.

Sao Paulo, Brazil's biggest city, still has a mask requirement, but will consider lifting it for outdoors areas this week.

Brasilia, the capital, lifted its outdoor mask requirement Monday.

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