Brazil confirms first coronavirus death

Published: 07:51 PM, 17 Mar, 2020
Brazil confirms first coronavirus death
Caption: Shop sellers pose as they wear face masks as a preventive measure against the spread of the new coronavirus, COVID-19, in downtown Sao Paulo, Brazil. AFP
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Brazil confirmed its first death from the new coronavirus Tuesday, as Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro declared a state of emergency over the pandemic, restricting public transportation and restaurant service.

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.

The city of Sao Paulo and state of Rio de Janeiro -- which includes the city of the same name -- declared states of emergency in a bid to contain the virus. Measures included closing Rio's iconic Christ the Redeemer statue and the cable car to Sugarloaf Mountain, two of the city's most famous attractions.

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 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, theatres 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.

Brazil -- the biggest country in Latin America, with 210 million people -- has confirmed 234 coronavirus cases, concentrated in Sao Paulo and Rio.


Agence France-Presse is an international news agency.