Rio de Janeiro (CNN) – Miguel Oliveira forcefully pushed lime and sugar in a cocktail shaker, for the first time that day. Now it was noon, and this, along with the sparsely populated walking in the bar stall, was only a sign that something was wrong in Rio de Janeiro.
“It’s never been this bad,” he sighed. “We are open to seeing if we can sell something – it closes worse.” He doubted the business would improve in the near future, the only bright spot was “at least the lease was delayed until next year.”
Miguel Oliveira waited until noon to get his first cocktail order that day.
Jo Shelley / CNN
Four years ago, I last saw a beach full of the heart of the Rio Olympics dream. The bar can’t find you a place to sit; every inch of the waterfront is full; swimsuits and ignoring time or worry are mandatory. Even the heavy police presence did not stop the dance.
Now, the beach is closed. Face masks are mandatory. Shops, restaurants, bars – and most beachside stalls, except Miguel – are closed. Covid-19 has issued police in Copacabana. Even the music was quiet, replaced by police sirens, warning locals who were reluctant to get off the beach.
The most famous beach in the world is emptied by rules that try to stop the spread of the corona virus.
Jo Shelley / CNN
The Maritime Fire Brigade – a mixture of firefighters and coast guards – pushed the length of the beach slowly, their speakers sounding requests for people to leave the sand. Lieutenant Colonel Fernando Melo said the majority of people followed the beach closure, but consistently one or two figures walked or gathered at the coastline, not realizing why the sand was so empty abnormally.
“In the beginning, when people didn’t believe in the corona, we held meetings at stalls, parties at night,” Melo said. “Schools are closed so people will come to the sand with their children.”
Now it’s better – but runners, walkers, and dogs all line up on the sidewalk. However, one group was missing: tourists. Foreigners are prohibited from entering Brazil for a while. (CNN was granted permission by the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to report).
Lieutenant Colonel Fernando Melo patrolled the beach with fellow firefighters and coast guards, telling anyone there to leave.
Jo Shelley / CNN
Locals find it difficult to walk in masks. In his daily jogging, Ronaldo Nussbaum does not wear a mask. He said he had asthma, and needed to breathe air. “Some days they have a lot of people, but today it’s okay.”
“He said a lot of things that I didn’t like. But I just chose him. My mother loved him. He could (say) bad words, but I can’t,” he laughed.
A picture from June 2019 shows a more general view of the crowded Copacabana beach.
Pictures of Mauro Pimentel / AFP / Getty
Nussbaum reflects public opinion shifting from the president, whose poll recently showed it now has a 50% disagreement rating. I asked if he would choose her again? “I’m not sure,” he said.
Sometimes, volleyball matches continue. Runners and surfers continue. The police rode an ATV on the sand, waving people’s hands, but they quickly returned. On the sand, and on the sometimes deserted streets, homeless people stand out: hard and lonely in this new landscape. The Belmont Hotel, an icon by the beach, has been closed for the first time in 97 years.
The rhythm that defines Copacabana has stopped, and the fear that is growing here – between businesses, and even locals who briefly enjoy space – is when and if it will come back again, and whether it will be the same happy step as before.
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