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World famous beach in Brazil emptied by coronavirus



Rio de Janeiro (CNN) – Miguel Oliveira shoots down the limes and sugar in the cocktail shaker, for the first time that day. It’s noon, and this, along with the sparsely populated boardwalk his kiosk bar sits on, is just a sign that something is wrong in Rio de Janeiro.

“It’s never been so bad,” he sighs. “We’re open to see if we can sell something – being closed is worse.” He doubts that business will get better anytime soon, the only bright spot is that “at least the rent will be postponed until next year.”

Miguel Oliveira waited until 10 p.m. 12 to get their first cocktail order of the day.

Miguel Oliveira waited until 10 p.m. 12 to get their first cocktail order of the day.

Your Shelley / CNN

Copacabana beach. If you’ve never been, you probably want to. If you know it, wherever you are in the world right now, you probably have a day there now. But the world’s most famous beach has turned into its most famous virus.

Four years ago, I last saw the beach teeter in the heart of Rio’s Olympic dream. Bars couldn’t find you a place; every inch of the boardwalk was overbooked; swimwear and a breach of time or concern was mandatory. Even the presence of the heavy police did not stop the dance.

Now the beach is closed. Face masks are mandatory. Shops, restaurants, bars – and most of the beach kiosks, except Migos – are closed. Covid-19 has called the Copacabana police. Even the music is quiet, replaced by police sirens and warns reluctant locals to get off the beach.

The world's most famous beach is emptied by rules that try to stop the spread of coronavirus.

The world’s most famous beach is emptied by rules that try to stop the spread of coronavirus.

Your Shelley / CNN

Seaside firefighters – a mix of firefighters and lifeguards – drive slowly on the beach and their speakers blow out the demand that people leave the sand. Colonel Fernando Melo said the majority of people stick to the beach closure, but consistently one or two figures walk or gather on the shoreline, unaware of why the sands are so abnormally empty.

“In the beginning, when people didn’t believe in the corona, we had gatherings at the kiosks, parties at night,” Melo said. “The schools were closed so people would come in the sand with their children.”

Now it’s better – but the joggers, walkers and dogs are all on the sidewalk. However, one group is missing: tourists. Foreigners are temporarily barred from entering Brazil. (CNN was granted entry by the Brazilian Foreign Ministry to report).

Colonel Fernando Melo patrols the beaches with other firefighters and lifeguards and asks everyone there to leave.

Colonel Fernando Melo patrols the beaches with other firefighters and lifeguards and asks everyone there to leave.

Your Shelley / CNN

The locals find it difficult to run in a mask. On his daily jog, Ronaldo Nussbaum is maskless. He said he has asthma and must get the air. “Some days they have a lot of people, but today it’s OK.”

“He said a lot of things I don’t like. But I just voted for him. My mother she loves him. He can (say) bad words, but I can’t,” he laughed.

A photo from June 2019 shows the more common scene on a crowded Copacabana beach.

A photo from June 2019 shows the more common scene on a crowded Copacabana beach.

Mauro Pimentel / AFP / Getty Images

Nussbaum reflects a changing public opinion from the president, as recent polls have shown that now has a 50% rejection rating. I ask if he will vote for him again? “I’m not sure,” he said.

Sometimes volleyball matches continue without delay. Runners and surfers continue. The police drive the ATV on the sand and fan people, but they will be back soon. On the sand and sometimes deserted streets, the homeless stand out: loud and lonely in this new landscape. Belmont Hotel, iconic on the beach, has closed for the first time in 97 years.

The rhythm that defines Copacabana itself has stopped, and the fear that grows here – among businesses and even the locals who briefly enjoy the space – is when and if it will return again, and if it will be the same happy pace as before.


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