World famous beach in Brazil emptied by coronavirus

World famous beach in Brazil emptied by coronavirus

Rio de Janeiro (CNN) – Miguel Oliveira firmly pushes the files and sugar into the shaker, for the first time that day. It’s noon, and this, along with the sparsely populated boardwalk on which your kiosk bar is located, is just a sign that something is amiss in Rio de Janeiro.

“It has never been so bad,” he sighs. “We are open to see if we can sell something; being closed is worse.” He doubts that business will improve soon, the only positive point is that “at least the rent is postponed until next year.”

Miguel Oliveira waited until noon to obtain his first cocktail of the day.

Jo 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 want one day there now. But the world’s best-known beach has smashed into its best known virus.

Four years ago, the last time I saw the beach, it brimmed the heart of Rio’s Olympic dream. The bars couldn’t find a seat for him; Every inch of the boardwalk was oversold; Bathing suits and disregard for time or worry were compulsory. Even the strong police presence did not stop the dance.

Now the beach is closed. Masks are mandatory. Shops, restaurants, bars, and most oceanfront kiosks, except Miguel’s, are closed. Covid-19 has taken out the police in Copacabana. Even the music is silent, replaced by police sirens, warning locals reluctant to leave the beach.

The maritime fire brigade, a mix of firefighters and first responders, slowly makes its way around the beach, their loudspeakers blasting at the demand from people in the sand. Lt. Col. Fernando Melo said most people stick to the beach closure, but constantly one or two figures stroll or gather on the shoreline, oblivious to why the sands are so abnormally empty.

“At the beginning, when people didn’t believe in the crown, we had meetings at the kiosks, parties at night,” said Melo. “Schools were closed for people to come to the arena with their children.”

It’s better now, but runners, walkers, and dogs line the sidewalk. However, one group is missing: tourists. Foreigners are temporarily prohibited from entering Brazil. (CNN received the input from the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to report).

Lt. Col. Fernando Melo patrols the beaches with other firefighters and first responders, and tells anyone to leave.

Lt. Col. Fernando Melo patrols the beaches with other firefighters and first responders, and tells anyone to leave.

Jo Shelley / CNN

Locals are finding it difficult to run in a mask. In his daily career, Ronaldo Nussbaum has no mask. He said he has asthma and that he needs to breathe. “Some days they have a lot of people, but today is fine.”

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

An image from June 2019 shows the most common scene of a crowded Copacabana beach.

An image from June 2019 shows the most common scene of a crowded Copacabana beach.

Mauro Pimentel / AFP / Getty Images

Nussbaum reflects a changing public opinion of the president, who, according to recent polls, now has a disapproval rating of 50%. I ask him if he will vote for him again. “I’m not sure,” he said.

Sometimes volleyball matches continue unabated. Runners and surfers continue. The police ride ATVs in the arena, firing people, but they quickly return. In the sand, and on the occasionally deserted streets, homeless people stand out: noisy and lonely in this new landscape. The iconic Belmont Hotel on this beach has closed for the first time in 97 years.

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

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About the Author: Cory Weinberg

Cory Weinberg covers the intersection of tech and cities. That means digging into how startups and big tech companies are trying to reshape real estate, transportation, urban planning, and travel. Previously, he reported on Bay Area housing and commercial real estate for the San Francisco Business Times. He received a "best young journalist" award from the National Association of Real Estate Editors.

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