Brazil confirmed its first COVID-19 death on Tuesday, March 17, 2020, as Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro declared a state of emergency over the virus outbreak — though President Jair Bolsonaro condemned what he called “hysteria” over the escalating crisis.
The South American country’s first victim was a 62-year-old man with underlying health conditions who died Monday in Sao Paulo, authorities said. He was diabetic and had high blood pressure, TV network Globo News reported.
“Unfortunately, this shows how severe this pandemic is, despite what some would like to believe,” Sao Paulo mayor Bruno Covas told CBN radio. That will likely be taken as a jab at Bolsonaro, who criticized how local governments are reacting to the pandemic, after the city of Sao Paulo and state of Rio de Janeiro declared states of emergency over the virus.
Sao Paulo eased regulations on government purchases of all materials linked to containing the virus — including hand sanitizer, now mandatory on public transportation. Rio ordered restaurants to reduce the number of tables by 70 percent to increase the distance between patrons, closed stores in shopping malls and halved the number of public transport vehicles in circulation, calling on people to remain home when possible.
On Friday, the state had already closed schools, theaters, and cinemas for at least 15 days. Rio Governor Wilson Witzel has also ordered people off the city’s beaches, deploying firefighters with loudspeakers to encourage them to go home.