RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Suellen de Souza could no longer endure the confinement. After six months of precautions, the Brazilian nursing technician decided that Sunday would be her first day at the beach since the pandemic began.
“This week it was very hot … the truth is I really wanted to come” to the beach, said the 21-year-old at Rio de Janeiro’s Ipanema beach, which is technically still closed to sun-bathers though few respect the prohibition and authorities seldom enforce it.
Under a burning midday sun, she had difficulty finding an empty space in the sand as thousands crowded the famed beach, which was dotted with hundreds of umbrellas and families sunning themselves. Beach-goers were packed close together with few wearing face masks.
With tentative signs the coronavirus pandemic is easing, Brazilians exhausted with quarantine measures and social distancing are increasingly relaxing precautions and flooding beaches as if the pandemic were over. They are being urged to do so – and violate the recommendations of health experts – by President Jair Bolsonaro, who has resisted many lockdown measures and pressed for a return to normal life from the beginning, famously calling the novel coronavirus a “little flu.”
“It is like a rain that is going to reach you,” Bolsonaro said of the virus on July 7, the day he confirmed his own infection from which he has since recovered.
In Rio, recommendations by health experts to remain isolated are being challenged even by people like Souza, a nursing technician who worked in a field hospital for coronavirus patients.
“The coronavirus is being controlled a little more, that gave me security to go out,” she said.