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Rio do Janeiro authorities order people out of the beaches and closed Christ the Redeemer statue

Tuesday, March 17th 2020 - 08:19 UTC
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Authorities closed the city's iconic Christ the Redeemer statue and the cable car that takes sightseers to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain, two of Rio's famous attractions. Authorities closed the city's iconic Christ the Redeemer statue and the cable car that takes sightseers to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain, two of Rio's famous attractions.

Anyone hoping to escape wall-to-wall coronavirus coverage with a day at the beach can forget about it in Rio de Janeiro, where authorities armed with megaphones blared out messages on Monday ordering everyone home.

Authorities also closed the city's iconic Christ the Redeemer statue and the cable car that takes sightseers to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain, two of Rio's most famous attractions.

Rio state Governor Wilson Witzel had warned residents to stay away from the waterfront in order to help contain the pandemic, in a video message on Friday in which he announced the closure of schools, cinemas, theaters and large events for at least two weeks.

He admitted ordering people off the sand was “heresy” in one of the world's most famous beach cities but insisted he was ready to deploy the military police to implement the measure if necessary.

After a hot, sunny weekend during which locals and tourists filled Copacabana, Ipanema and the city's other legendary beaches anyway, state authorities cracked down, deploying firefighters to transmit what amounted to a very stern request.

At beach after beach, bright red trucks rolled up and loudly blared their sirens -- startling small crowds of Monday-morning sun-seekers gazing languidly at the horizon of turquoise waters dotted by green mountains.

“The Civil Defense Authority asks the population not to gather on the beach. Please, for your own safety and that of your neighbors, friends and families, go home,” said the message, blared out on a megaphone.

“Do your part to help prevent and contain coronavirus.”

Rio has confirmed 31 cases of the new coronavirus so far, and there are 234 across Brazil. The country has reported no deaths yet. Health officials are working to convince the population to take the threat seriously, with mixed success.

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